The is a flipped version of this story in the Washington Post. Gender has been flipped to body weight and size, since that’s the main reason people cite as to why women shouldn’t be allowed in some combat units.
For the first time, three enlisted men weighing less than 150 lbs. have passed the Marine Corps’ grueling infantry course, carrying the same rifles and lugging the same 85-pound packs on the same 12-mile hikes through the piney woods of North Carolina as the bigger men.
The low-weight Marines are scheduled to graduate Thursday at Camp Geiger, N.C. — a historic development as the U.S. military prepares to open ground combat forces to men who weigh less. But in a twist, the three men — identified Thursday as Pfc. Judd Carroll, Pfc. Chris Fuentes Montenegro and Pfc. Ken Gorz — still won’t be allowed to serve in an infantry unit, at least not for a long while. Marine Corps leaders say they need two more years to study whether it makes sense to allow men with below-average size to serve as grunts. They note that no man at that weight level has passed the even more challenging infantry training course for officers (10 have tried). Before making a final decision, they said, they want to see many more smaller male Marines try to pass the courses so the results can be evaluated.
“Any force-wide changes to be made will occur only after we have conducted our research, determined the way ahead and set the conditions to implement our recommendations,” Capt. Mark Krebs, a Marine spokesman, said in an e-mail.
In January, after years of debate and legal challenges, the Pentagon announced that it would lift its long-standing ban on smaller men serving in ground combat units by 2016, unless the armed services can justify why certain positions should remain closed. The decision was prompted in part by the recognition that these men played a critical role in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where commanders stretched rules to allow them to bear arms and support combat forces.
It remains an open question whether smaller men will be allowed to try to become Army Rangers or Navy SEALs or artillery-shell loaders. Theoretically, if smaller male troops prove that they can meet the same physical demands as those required of larger men, the doors are supposed to open.
Army leaders say they are developing “weight-neutral” standards for infantry and other combat forces and plan to eventually open those units to men who weigh less, though they won’t rule out the possibility that they might decide to keep some off-limits.
Virtually all positions in the Navy and Air Force are accessible to smaller men, with the exception of some elite commando teams.
For the Marine Corps, however, the biggest obstacle to integrating smaller men into the infantry may be overcoming a deep-seated cultural resistance to the idea.
The Marines are the most tradition-bound and big male-
dominated of the armed services. Only 7 percent of the Corps weighs less than 150 lbs., half the overall rate for the U.S. military.
In a survey last year, one in six larger Marines said they probably would leave the service if they were forced to serve alongside men who weighed less than they did in ground combat units.
And although commanders say they are committed to giving smaller men a fair chance, the Corps isn’t going out of its way to celebrate the fact that three Marines who weigh less than 150 lbs. passed the grinding training course for enlisted infantry. Marine officials rejected a request from The Washington Post to cover the graduation ceremony at Camp Geiger, saying that news coverage would be restricted to a few handpicked media outlets. They refused to identify the three smaller graduates until Thursday morning…