Frequent commenter Steve (not to be confused with Steve-O-in-NJ or Steve Withspoon, also veteran combatants here) asked my opinion about an article titled “Marines’ Obsession with Pull-Ups May Be Hurting the Corps, Study Finds.”
To begin with, it’s a misleading headline. The real subject of the piece, in Military.com, is the alleged hostility being fostered toward female recruits because of their disparate and less demanding physical requirements, including pull-ups. I was sure that I had written about the Marine pull-up controversy before, and sure enough I had, in 2013, (My, how time flies.) Re-reading it now, I felt that the Ethics Alarms post was relevant background to evaluating the article, which includes this…
The idea that female Marines can do fewer pull-ups than their male counterparts and get an equal score “did not sit well” with men, researchers wrote. “Are [women] required to meet equal physical standards? No, it doesn’t take a scientist to study that,” one gunnery sergeant said. “They need to do this many pull-ups, and I need to do this many. Is that equal? No. Four and four is equal. 20 and 20 is equal. That’s equal. So either we’re equal, or we’re not.”
Somehow, the author spins the findings into a rationalization for allowing the unequal standards to continue, writing at the beginning of the article,
Marines are putting an “extreme emphasis” on the number of pull-ups leathernecks can do, a recently published internal study found. And that, some fear, could result in other important qualities that are vital to the Corps’ mission being overlooked. Participants in a study on Marine Corps culture were often focused on pull-ups as a best measure of a person’s value and worth, researchers found. Marines’ ability to lift their own body weight on a pull-up bar was “routinely what Marines referenced when discussing physical standards, a Marine’s value, and physical readiness,” the report’s authors wrote.
I hadn’t checked the name of the author until after I read the article and was struck by how the title and first paragraphs attempted to ignore the ethics issue involved. Guess the writer’s gender. Yup, you’re right.
Here was my article in 2013, (and I wouldn’t change a word); I’ll have some final comments at the end:
Integrity Surrender For The U.S. Marines
Among the core values of the U.S. Marine Corps is Honor:
“Honor guides Marines to exemplify the ultimate in ethical and moral behavior; to never lie cheat or steal; to abide by an uncompromising code of integrity; respect human dignity; and respect others. The quality of maturity, dedication, trust and dependability commit Marines to act responsibly; to be accountable for their actions; to fulfill their obligations; and to hold others accountable for their actions. “
According to NPR, the USMC has quietly postponed the requirement for all its female recruits to be able to do three pull-ups. The standard, which was to go into effect on January 1, 2014 for all women in the Marines, just as it has long been the upper-body strength requirement for men, has put back at least a year for “further study.” Marine women have not yet had to meet the same upper-body strength test as males because they were not permitted onto the battlefield. Beginning in 2016, in response to the calls of feminists and women’s rights advocates, females in the Marine Corps and Army will be able, well, allowed, to serve in infantry, armor and artillery units, where the lack of sufficient physical ability can cost lives and result in military failure.
Why is the standard being changed? Simple: so far, women have not been able to make the grade. Only 45 % of female recruits tested at the end of boot camp were able to complete three pull-ups; 99 % of male recruits pass the test. Lance Cpl. Ally Beiswanger told NPR that the decision to postpone the pull-ups requirement had been made “ensure all female Marines are given the best opportunity to succeed.”
Is such a decision consistent with the an “uncompromising code of integrity”? No. Of course it isn’t. Integrity precludes double standards in any context. Integrity demands that the standards be the same for all recruits, that would-be Marines of any race, creed, age, size or gender than fail those standards ne deemed unfit to serve, and that no manipulations, postponements or alterations in the standards be made to help any particular Marine or class of Marine have “the best opportunity to succeed.” Indeed, any other course not only mocks the concept of integrity, it also undermines the Corps commitment to integrity at all.
This isn’t equality, or fairness, or responsibility, or consistency, or equity, justice, prudence, respect or common sense. It is pure politics.
And we all know how much integrity there is in politics.
From the USMC website:
Semper Fidelis distinguishes the Marine Corps bond from any other. It goes beyond teamwork—it is a brotherhood that can always be counted on. Latin for “always faithful,” Semper Fidelis became the Marine Corps motto in 1883. It guides Marines to remain faithful to the mission at hand, to each other, to the Corps and to country, no matter what. Becoming a Marine is a transformation that cannot be undone, and Semper Fidelis is a permanent reminder of that. Once made, a Marine will forever live by the ethics and values of the Corps.
Having said all of that, twice, I should mention that pull-ups are a ridiculous exercise on which to base standards of fitness. There are pro football players who can’t do pull-ups. I know the cliche of being able to “pull your weight” is still current, but someone who can pull a body weighing 200 pounds up to a bar only twice is still not necessarily “less fit” than someone who can do 30 pull-ups with a 150 pound physique. My late father, who marched all over Europe in World War II and was fit enough to pull two GI’s out of submerged Jeep under fire, told me he never was able to do a pull-up in his life.
Still, standards are standards. What is weird about this controversy is that a fit woman should be able to do more pull-ups than the average male Marine, not fewer, because she weighs so much less. Eva Clarke, an Australian, set a record with 3,737 pull-ups. – and snapped up the one hour (725) and 12 hour (2,740) records in the process. (The male record is still twice that, the 7,600 reps performed by American John Orth.)