Dear 2nd Lt. Santangelo,
I recently read your article in the Washington Post about how the Marine Corps failed to train you well enough for the Infantry Officer’s Course, and I have a few thoughts. I’m sure your cadre at IOC told you it’s important to listen to your NCOs, so as a former Sergeant and infantry squad leader, I’m sounding off and you should listen up, ma’am.
Your letter was very interesting, if only because you stated that the standards should not be changed for women in combat. I strongly agree. Where you failed to use logic was in stating that it was the Marine Corps itself that was responsible because “they’ve [female Marines] been encouraged to train to lesser standards.” That is just plain insulting to women in general. So because the Marine Corps gave you softer standards, you just accepted that? What happened to exceeding the standard? You were motivated to become one of the first women to pass the Infantry Officer’s Course, which I admire you for, yet instead of accepting responsibility for your personal failure, you blame the system. No one made me train hard enough.
In going to General Amos you proved that you are not interested in being a leader. You’re interested in a career. Amos gave you special treatment because you’re a woman, which you accepted. I wonder what General Mattis would have told you. Either way, you’re not qualified to lead troops and they’re going to put you into an administrative billet that’s going to be a cakewalk. It might be great for your career, but I imagine your command is going to hide you in a corner because you’ve already proven that if you have a problem, you’re going to go to the media (when some ruck runs might have been more fruitful to your conditioning, Devil).
Did any of the 24 male Marines who didn’t pass your IOC class get a sweet-talk from the Commandant? No. Did they go to the Washington Post to complain about it? No. They’re probably training to take the course a second time. What about the other female 2nd Lieutenants, were they given a career boosting deployment to Afghanistan? No. Not to mention, those 24 men were trained to the standard that you say would have allowed you to pass the course, so what caused their failure? I agree that women should be given a second chance to take IOC, but you have to take responsibility for your lack of preparation. In combat, you can’t call the Commandant. You take charge of the troops under you or good men (and women) die. Aren’t there leadership principles (that you learned in The Basic School) that lay this out for you? # 11. Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions.
“We need to set women up to succeed in combat roles,” you said. To put it another way, women need special treatment. This undermines your whole argument of women being equally capable of serving in combat. The Marine Corps needs self-starters in leadership roles, especially in counterinsurgency operations and asymmetric warfare. We don’t promise you a rose garden either, an old recruiting poster states to potential female recruits. Perhaps you need a reminder that it’s called serving your country, and not the other way around.
Part of being a Marine leader is doing more with less. You understand that the other branches have more money, more resources, and that you will never be given the full picture in a combat situation. You must improvise, adapt, and overcome. And your leaders will always expect you to exceed the standard.
Let’s say I wanted to become an Officer after I get out graduate from college in May. If I fail IOC, should I turn to the Washington Post and say, “Well no one was making me train hard enough so that’s why I failed!” Puh-lease.
Suck it up, Devil Dog. Ma’am.