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Navy Airman Shannon Dobbins takes on the chin-up bars at Rescue Swimmers School at Pensacola Naval Air Station during training, Feb. 20, 2014. / Tony Giberson, Pensacola (Fla.) News-Journal

The Marine Corps' plan to require women in the branch to do pull-ups has been delayed because it could be too costly in terms of prohibiting otherwise qualified personnel from the service.

"The risks are unacceptable accession/attrition/retention rates for recruits, officer candidates and current Marines," Capt. Maureen Krebs, a Marine Corps spokeswoman at the Pentagon, said in an email exchange with the News Journal.

In a reversal last January, the Marines decided against going ahead with a proposal from its top officer, Gen. James Amos, in November 2012 that one standard for the women's strength test be the same as for men: at least three pull-ups.

Data collected by the Marines in November showed that 55 percent of women at the service branch's basic training facility in Parris Island, S.C., couldn't meet the new standard.

Krebs said the Marines are training women to do pull-ups but a final decision on whether to implement the requirement hasn't been made.

"I know that female Marines are working hard to do their pull-ups to be prepared for whenever the final decision is made," Krebs said.

A pull-up consists of gripping an elevated bar and raising the body with the arms until the chin is above the bar, then lowering the body until the arms are completely extended. Fitness specialists in the military and civilian life say that the pull-up is among the most basic demonstrations of physical fitness and strength -- in short, it shows whether you can or can't lift your own weight.

According to the Marine Corps Training and Education Command at Quantico, Va., the pull-up works many upper-body muscle groups at once, from the fingertips to the back, like perhaps no other single exercise. Naval fitness specialists assert that most women can meet the pull-up standards, given enough time and training.

"My thing is, you can have a program where every female could do at least three pull-ups," said Bob Thomas, a director at the Corry Station Wellness Center in Pensacola. "But what I have found is you have to do them every day."

Indeed, numerous Navy women who are candidates at the Rescue Swimmer School at Pensacola Naval Air Station successfully met the requirement of four pull-ups to be admitted to the program and eight to graduate at the end of five weeks.

That school is "gender neutral," said Waylon Wolf, a chief petty officer who is the lead trainer.

Still, the pull-up isn't a Navy-wide standard, and candidates for the rescue swimmer school are screened to make sure they already have high levels of fitness, Wolf said.

The Marine Corps' plans to implement the pull-up standard for women is in part a rite of passage to prepare them for expanded eligibility to take on combat roles.

Marine women already have been taking on more dangerous jobs, Krebs said.

"The last 13 years of war have substantiated the strategic and tactical value of and need for women in our ranks," she said.

Thus the practical value of the pull-up requirement may be in doubt.

"The commandant has no intent to introduce a standard that would negatively affect the current status of female Marines or their ability to continue serving in the Marine Corps," Krebs said.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Marines delay pull-up requirement for female recruits

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