The Thinking 

Few Women Sign Up for Marine Course

November 27, 2012


EARLIER this year, Capt. Kate Petronio of the Marine Corps made news when she wrote in the Marine Corps Gazette that women are not up to combat tours and overwhelmingly do not wish to serve on front lines. She said she herself had been rendered infertile by the physical stress of her experience in combat operations in Iraq. However, according to The Washington Times, Petronio was five months pregnant when the article appeared and she had a baby in October. Her article didn’t say she had been made permanently infertile, but it did leave that impression. I wrote about it here.

Petronio is in the news again because only two women signed up for the much-discussed Marines Infantry Officer Course that was opened to women for the first time in September. Neither of the two women made it through the grueling course. Female officers pushing a greater role for women in combat are angry with the results. They say possible recruits were scared off by Petronio’s story and that women weren’t attracted to the training course because they cannot serve in infantry positions anyway.

Petronio had argued that most military women have no interest in combat positions. She wrote:

Who is driving this agenda? I am not personally hearing female Marines, enlisted or officer, pounding on the doors of Congress claiming that their inability to serve in the infantry violates their right to equality. Shockingly, this isn’t even a congressional agenda. This issue is being pushed by several groups, one of which is a small committee of civilians appointed by the Secretary of Defense called the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service (DACOWITS). Their mission is to advise the Department of Defense (DoD) on recommendations, as well as matters of policy, pertaining to the well-being of women in the Armed Services from recruiting to employment. Members are selected based on their prior military experience or experience with women’s workforce issues.

The Marine Corps wants to test a total of 90 women in the course before deciding whether to admit women to infantry positions.


—- Comments —

Pan Dora writes:

I read Captain Katie Petronio’s article “Get Over It! We Are Not All Created Equal!” back in July when you posted it after a reader sent it to you. I detected the smell of bologna during my first read (over the article, not your column.) I frequently have this reaction anytime the disease Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is mentioned, as that is a current favorite disease for those who like to self-diagnose.

From Webmd: “Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) symptoms tend to start gradually. Often, hormone changes that lead to PCOS start in the early teens, after the first menstrual period. Symptoms may be especially noticeable after a weight gain.”

For various reasons, the odds are very much against her deployment being the cause of her PCOS, if indeed she actually had it.

Laura writes:

PCOS was not the only negative health effect Petronio claimed she experienced from her tours. She wrote:

[I] can say with 100 percent assurance that despite my accomplishments, there is no way I could endure the physical demands of the infantrymen whom I worked beside as their combat load and constant deployment cycle would leave me facing medical separation long before the option of retirement.

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