Lance Cpl. Katelyn Hunter does pullups at Camp Foster, Okinawa, in December 2012. The Corps is extending the deadline for when female Marines will have to do dead-hang pullups for their Physical Fitness Test. (Pfc. Kasey Peacock / Marine Corps)
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Marine officials are uncertain whether women will be required to perform pullups with the development of new service-wide fitness standards, but a strongly worded message from the commandant encourages personnel to continue building upper body strength in anticipation of a modification to the Physical Fitness Test.
Any changes are delayed until at least June 30, according to the message.
Even if women are required to begin performing pullups, they will have until the start of the next PFT season on Jan. 1, 2015, a Marine spokeswoman at the Pentagon said. Until then, female Marines will have the option of doing pullups or the traditional flexed-arm hang, which they must hold for at least 15 seconds to earn a passing score. Recruits at Marine Corps Recruit Deport Parris Island, S.C., will continue to perform pullups to allow the service to gather more data.
While Marine administrative message 035/14, signed by Gen. Jim Amos, offers no details about what will be implemented when all is said and done, it does say Marines should assume that pullups “will become the single standard measure of physical fitness.”
No final decisions have been made, however, said Capt. Maureen Krebs, a Marine Corps spokeswoman at the Pentagon.
The delay “allows more time for studies to be done to determine exactly when the Marine Corps will make a decision on when and whether or not pull-ups will be instituted in the female PFT,” she told Marine Corps Times.
It’s a sensitive subject among Marines, and even in the general public, as the service aggressively continues its research into which ground combat jobs should be opened to women. The first announcement of a delay in the implementation of a pullup requirement for women generated widespread criticism. . The majority of men and women, in uniform or not, argue that women should not be allowed into infantry specialties unless they can meet the exact same physical standards as male Marines.
The announcement of a new pullup requirement for female Marines was made at the end of 2012, but a delay was announced Nov. 15 after testing showed that more than half the female recruits at boot camp could not perform at least three. Officials said they would indefinitely postpone the change until they could further evaluate whether pullups are an appropriate metric for assessing upper-body strength in all Marines.
The potential risks of instituting pullups for women include problems recruiting and retaining both enlisted and officer female Marines, according to Krebs.
Poor PFT scores can derail a Marine’s career prospects, particularly during the hyper-competitive drawdown that will trim the service to about 174,000 troops by the start of 2017.
Amos said Marines could expect a subsequent MARADMIN to address specific concerns about the implementation of Phase 2, which would end the era of the flexed-arm hang for women. If it takes effect, women will be required to complete three pullups to pass the PFT, the same as men. However, as it currently stands, women will only need to do eight pullups to max out their PFT score, while men will have to do 20. The message gave no indication as to when that subsequent MARADMIN might be issued.
Pullups or related exercises have been introduced at boot camp and during unit PT sessions, and in February 2013, the Corps launched a website with workout guides tailored to all ability levels.