Second Lt. Sage Santangelo wrote for the Washington Post about her experience attempting and failing to complete the Marine Corps' Infantry Officer Course and the overall process of introducing women into combat roles.
She talked about the rigors of the test while not offering any details on the secretive course that is meant to keep Marines in the dark about what it entails. An accomplished athlete who has played hockey in high school and has climbed 14,000-foot peaks, Santangelo wrote about how she couldn't finish the first day's Combat Endurance Test, and what steps could be taken to allow women to pass it.
Santangelo is one of 14 female officers to attempt the course. None have passed it yet. However, Santangelo believes a woman will. She points to the female enlisted Marines who have completed the enlisted infantry course as one reason why.
In fact, she said one reason no woman has passed is because no female officers have been allowed to retake the course like their male counterparts. She said this offers a distinct advantage to male officers who have a better idea of a few of the challenges they will have to overcome.
Santangelo emphasized that she believes the standards for the course should not be reduced to accommodate women. But she writes that those standards should remain the same from the time women enter the Corps. Otherwise, women are not as prepared as men to complete the course. She used the Marine Corps' decision to back off from its requirement for women to complete pull ups in Basic to pass the fitness test as an example.
"I believe that I could pass, and that other women could pass, if the standards for men and women were equal from the beginning of their time with the Marines, if endurance and strength training started earlier than the current practice for people interested in going into the infantry, and if women were allowed a second try, as men are," Santangelo wrote.
She said she was told she couldn't attempt the course again because women are not allowed to serve in combat roles and it would delay her training. However, she poked a hole in that reasoning saying she has to wait 12 months to report to flight school.
Santangelo wrote that she appreciated the opportunity to attempt the Infantry Officer Course as the Marine Corps is leading the way among its sister services in offering women opportunities in combat roles. She said the next step is figuring out ways for women to excel in those infantry roles.
"Now, instead of passively evaluating their performance, we need to figure out how to set women up to excel in infantry roles. My hope is that the Marine Corps will allow every Marine the opportunity to compete. And that when we fail, our failure is seen simply as a challenge to others to succeed," Santangelo wrote.