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Women In Combat Decision Expected Soon


And NPR's Tom Bowman is still with us in our studios. And Tom, I'm trying to think through what Secretary Mabus has said there. There's a fear in many quarters that there will be a double standard, that woman will just be held to lower standards. He seems to be saying, no, we don't want that. We want identical standards, but somehow, we want this work to for women. Is that right?

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: That is right. And they've said all along that the standards will not be changed, that everyone has to do the exact same thing here, the same standards. What the Marines are looking at now is even before you get in the door for infantry, armor or artillery training, maybe everybody has to be more physically fit. So they're going to raise the standards before you get in the door, maybe more pull-ups and more carrying of weight so you're much stronger, both men and women, before you head into this training.

INSKEEP: Oh, this is interesting. So the Marines are suggesting that if women are having trouble, maybe the problem is not with women. It is with the training for everybody in this situation.

BOWMAN: Absolutely.

INSKEEP: OK, so you mentioned the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Joseph Dunford, who has a decision to make. What is the choice that is laid before him now exactly?

BOWMAN: Well, he has to decide whether to close some of these jobs to women, maybe infantry jobs 'cause we know that infantry jobs are the toughest. And from NPR's reporting, going out in the field on this experiment, we learned that anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of the women going through the infantry training washed out. Many more of the women could make it through the artillery and armor training. So that's something he's going to have to look at.

INSKEEP: Tom Bowman, as you cover the Pentagon day by day and speak with officers of all sorts of ranks, how much time and energy is being taken up with this question of how to integrate women into combat roles?

BOWMAN: A lot of time. It's a sensitive political issue. It's a serious national security issue, and they spent a lot of time on this over the past two years.

INSKEEP: Are officers feeling like they're going to get a chance to make a fact-based, science-based decision in the end rather than a political decision?

BOWMAN: They're worried about it. They think they may be pushed into a political decision.

INSKEEP: Tom, thanks very much.

BOWMAN: You're welcome, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman on this morning that we're learning about a Marine Corps study which found that mixed gender units performed at a lower level than male units. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Bowman is a NPR National Desk reporter covering the Pentagon.
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