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Current Events & Hot Topics Current Events & Hot Topics

Marines: Most Female Recruits Don't Meet New Pullup Standard

Posted by on Dec. 27, 2013 at 10:49 PM
  • 50 Replies

Marines: Most Female Recruits Don't Meet New Pullup Standard

4 min 44 sec



Female Marine recruits train on the rifle range during boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., on Feb. 25. The Marine Corps said it has postponed new physical standards that would require women to do three pullups, noting that many female recruits were not yet able to do so.

Female Marine recruits train on the rifle range during boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., on Feb. 25. The Marine Corps said it has postponed new physical standards that would require women to do three pullups, noting that many female recruits were not yet able to do so.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Starting Jan. 1, every woman in the Marines Corps was supposed to meet a new physical standard by performing three pullups. But that has been put off.

The Marine Corps announced it quietly. There was no news conference — just a notice on and an item on its own TV show, .

Lance Cpl. Ally Beiswanger explained that the pullup test had been put off until sometime next year, to gather more data and "ensure all female Marines are given the best opportunity to succeed."

So far, female Marines are not succeeding. Fifty-five percent of female recruits tested at the end of boot camp were doing fewer than three pullups; only 1 percent of male recruits failed the test.

The three pullups is already the minimum required for all male Marines. Now the Marine Corps has postponed the plan, and that's raising questions about whether women have the physical strength to handle ground combat, which they'll be allowed to do beginning in 2016.

Marine officers would not talk to NPR on tape. They said they delayed the pullup requirement to avoid losing not only recruits but also current female Marines who can't pass the test.

The Marine Corps has been using it to test upper body strength for men for more than 40 years. And that upper body strength, they say, is necessary to serve in ground combat: to pull yourself out of a canal in Afghanistan, to climb over a mud wall, to carry an ammunition box.

Setting A Tougher Standard

Related NPR stories

For years, female Marines have had to meet a different standard — an exercise called the "flexed arm hang" (holding one's chin above the pullup bar for at least 15 seconds).

But beginning in 2016, women in the Marine Corps and Army will be allowed to serve in infantry, armor and artillery units. And they'll need to be strong enough to climb those mud walls and carry ammunition.

Robert Maginnis, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, says the delay shows that women just can't meet the same standards.

"Young women, in spite of all the training and all the best intentions, are not going to be the equal of young men in terms of upper body strength," Maginnis says. "You've got to have a lot of upper body strength to lift the stuff. Been there, done that."

Maginnis just wrote a book called Deadly Consequences: How Cowards are Pushing Women into Combat. He says the issue has more to do with politics than protecting the nation.

A Former Marine Says It's Possible

However, Greg Jacob, a former Marine, says women can build the strength they need for pullups, and he has seen it done.

He served as a Marine infantry officer in the Balkans and Africa, and now he works for the Service Women's Action Network, a group that advocates for military women. When he was a Marine trainer in North Carolina, he required his female instructors to knock out pullups just like the guys.

"At first, a lot of women weren't able to do it," Jacob says. "They were able to do one, some were able to do two, but what happened was by having that standard and enforcing that standard, it made my Marines, it made the troops go to the gym and train to that standard."

Within six months, all of the women in his company were doing eight to 12 pullups, he says.

Jacob says the Marine Corps must do a better job of training women to reach the same standard as men. A small number of female Marines already have made it: So far, 13 women have passed advanced combat training. One of the requirements is three pullups.

"It's a squad-sized unit that's ready to go, and they're not sending them to their infantry unit simply because they're women," Jacob says.

Some Marine officers privately say only a handful of Marine women will show interest in combat or be able to pass the course.

Meantime, Corps Report TV anchor Lance Cpl. Ally Beiswanger wants to see if she can get over the first physical hurdle and do those pullups.

She admitted to her audience that she could only do one pullup last year.

"Now I'm up to eight, so I'm taking advantage of the extra time to complete my goal of 12 pullups," she said on the show.

And what about the larger goal of women in ground combat? That's still two years away.

National Woman's Party


by on Dec. 27, 2013 at 10:49 PM
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Replies (1-10):
Sisteract
by Whoopie on Dec. 27, 2013 at 10:53 PM

I remember the Presidential Fitness award in HS- they tested us annually for certain physical achievements- very few met all the criteria, earning them the award(this was an all girls' school in the 70s)...the pull-up is the only one I failed-every.single.year.

tanyainmizzou
by on Dec. 27, 2013 at 10:55 PM
4 moms liked this
then they don't need to be Marines
fireangel5
by Gold Member on Dec. 27, 2013 at 10:57 PM
3 moms liked this

I HATE pull ups and I suck at them, always have BUT I had to do them in the fire academy. If you want to be treated equally to men, you need to meet the same requirements that men do. 

smalltownmom03
by Member on Dec. 27, 2013 at 11:00 PM
They need to pass all of the same tests that the men do or they don't need to be a marine.
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A-nony-mous
by Bronze Member on Dec. 27, 2013 at 11:03 PM
3 moms liked this

Then they need to train up, simple as. I hate hearing it stated as though it's some sort of insurpassable flaw of female biology, as it constantly is. Female Marines can do 3+ pullups, they simply haven't focused their training that way, clearly. It's not a huge issue, as was shown later down the page but few people will get that far reading. They'll see the headlines and it'll turn into yet another debate about how women are all weak, hip strength, childbirth and basically that women shouldn't be in combat....instead of that these women need to hit the gym more or be flunked from the course. 

Mommy_of_Riley
by Jes on Dec. 27, 2013 at 11:07 PM
12 moms liked this
I'll get shit for this and be called "anti-woman" but this is why females can't serve on the ground...

Grunts have to be able to climb out of holes on their own, run with ammo cans, pull a comrade's body weight, and more. These things require upper body strength that most women do not have because our bodies are not built that way!

Putting a female Marine on the ground who can't do these things alongside my husband is putting her life and my husband's life at risk.
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jehosoba84
by Jenn on Dec. 27, 2013 at 11:07 PM
1 mom liked this

What I was in basic we literally never trained for pullups. There were bars for us to try if we wanted, but not once were we ever asked to do them.   Now for women, to get the perfect score for pushups in a 2 minute timed test we had to do 42.   I could do my 42 in one minute. Yea, I'm kinda bragging here. But that being said, I could still only do 3 pullups at the end of basic training. 

Mommy_of_Riley
by Jes on Dec. 27, 2013 at 11:10 PM
3 moms liked this
Actually there have been studies proving that women don't have the upper body strength men have because the way our muscles are. However, most women have more lower body strength than men.

It doesn't mean one is weaker than the other it simply means our strengths are different.


Quoting A-nony-mous:

Then they need to train up, simple as. I hate hearing it stated as though it's some sort of insurpassable flaw of female biology, as it constantly is. Female Marines can do 3+ pullups, they simply haven't focused their training that way, clearly. It's not a huge issue, as was shown later down the page but few people will get that far reading. They'll see the headlines and it'll turn into yet another debate about how women are all weak, hip strength, childbirth and basically that women shouldn't be in combat....instead of that these women need to hit the gym more or be flunked from the course. 

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Sisteract
by Whoopie on Dec. 27, 2013 at 11:13 PM

I agree- 

Quoting Mommy_of_Riley: Actually there have been studies proving that women don't have the upper body strength men have because the way our muscles are. However, most women have more lower body strength than men.

It doesn't mean one is weaker than the other it simply means our strengths are different.


Quoting A-nony-mous:

Then they need to train up, simple as. I hate hearing it stated as though it's some sort of insurpassable flaw of female biology, as it constantly is. Female Marines can do 3+ pullups, they simply haven't focused their training that way, clearly. It's not a huge issue, as was shown later down the page but few people will get that far reading. They'll see the headlines and it'll turn into yet another debate about how women are all weak, hip strength, childbirth and basically that women shouldn't be in combat....instead of that these women need to hit the gym more or be flunked from the course. 


TruthSeeker.
by Milami on Dec. 27, 2013 at 11:16 PM
1 mom liked this
I agree with you 100%

Quoting Mommy_of_Riley: I'll get shit for this and be called "anti-woman" but this is why females can't serve on the ground...



Grunts have to be able to climb out of holes on their own, run with ammo cans, pull a comrade's body weight, and more. These things require upper body strength that most women do not have because our bodies are not built that way!

Putting a female Marine on the ground who can't do these things alongside my husband is putting her life and my husband's life at risk.
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