“. . . If Success Is Optional, They Have!
A proud Marine Corps tradition has just ended, not with a bang but a whimper. Historically, the Marines have fought to maintain high training standards, especially in the combat arms. Infantry officers aspiring to lead others into battle had to pass the grueling Combat Endurance Test (CET) – the first and toughest challenge in the Infantry Officer Course (IOC) at Quantico, Virginia.
The deliberately exhausting pass-fail CET, starting before dawn, involved long marches under heavy loads and unpredictable land navigation challenges in rugged terrain. Success demanded technical knowledge, weapons proficiency, extraordinary physical strength, stamina, and survival skills needed to fight the enemy and win. Trainees who failed pursued different careers.
The Combat Endurance Test worked to separate the best from the rest. It was not broken, but last November, Marine Commandant General Robert Neller quietly decided to “fix” it.
Without public notice, General Neller downgraded the CET from a must-pass endurance test to a success-optional “Combat Evaluation Test.” The acronym remains the same, but now the CET is just another evaluation data point. 
The USMC Training & Education Command (TECOM) insists that the course itself has not changed. The new system, they say, will better tie student assessments to “operating force requirements.” Removing fear of failure, however, changes everything. The “requirements” in question are not operational, they are political.
In May 2014, retired Army Colonel Ellen Haring, a feminist senior fellow at Women in International Security (WIIS), criticized the Combat Endurance Test as an “initiation rite” that unfairly “filters out” most female aspirants. Marine 2nd Lt. Emma Stokien rebutted Haring’s op-ed, explaining practical realities and the philosophy behind the demanding course.
“Officers are expected to set the example for and lead our enlisted Marines,” wrote Stokien. In the infantry, “faith in and respect for your leadership can make all the difference in attaining victory and preserving Marine lives.” Stokien added that if the course is changed to accommodate women, female Marines would enter the infantry “under the dark cloud of perceived lowered standards.” 
Army General Martin Dempsey, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted in January 2013, “[If] a particular standard is so high that a woman couldn’t make it,” the service must explain . . . “Why is it that high? Does it really have to be that high?” 
To achieve what Gen. Dempsey called a “critical mass” of women in the combat arms, training standards have to be eliminated, modified, or scored differently. General Neller, unfortunately, has applied the “Dempsey Rule” to the Combat Endurance Test. So much for promises that if women entered the combat arms, qualifying standards would not change.
Have Standards Eroded Already?
When the Marine Corps Times reported what it described as a “slight change” to the Infantry Officer Course, TECOM officials said that the average attrition rate for the CET between 2012 and 2017 was less than 3 percent,” and in 2017 less than 1 percent failed the test. These comments raise serious questions: Have CET standards eroded already?
- C.J. Chivers of the New York Times, who had passed the CET himself in 1988, visited the course in July 2012. Chivers described infantry trainees suffering bloody feet and mind-blurring exhaustion, and noted that 76 out of 96 Marines passed – an attrition rate of 20 percent. 
- In July 2013, Washington Post military reporter Dan Lamothe visited the Infantry Officer Course and followed two female officers who were attempting to succeed on the first-day Combat Endurance Test.  One of the women and five men fell too far behind to continue and the other became the first of about 30 spirited female officers who failed the test. Lamothe reported, “In total, 61 lieutenants passed the CET this month, and 18 failed. . . . The attrition rate at IOC typically is about 20 to 25 percent. Of those, about half do not make it past the CET.”
- In a 2014 report about three female trainees who did pass the CET, Anna Mulrine of the Christian Science Monitor reported similar high attrition rates on the Infantry Officer Course.  One hundred Marines attempted the CET, wrote Mulrine, but only 70 passed – an attrition rate of 30 percent.
Either the New York Times, Washington Post, and Christian Science Monitor got their numbers wrong, or something has changed at the CET, ensuring that almost everyone will pass.”
Until recently, women weren’t able to pass the physical requirements. Suddenly, they are making it through, and it isn’t because the women have gotten faster or stronger. Obviously the standards have already changed.
Some people just can’t stand failing. They look at the inability of the women to meet physical requirements standards as a flaw in the system. To them, the system won’t allow them to “be, all that you can be.” And there you have it. Perhaps they are better suited for the army! (Obviously not airborne or rangers)