Marine Infantry Officer Basic Course

UPDATE: Since this piece was originally written in August of 2016 with the graduation of Female Army Officers from Ranger school, the USMC has in fact graduated a female Infantry Officer, as of 25 September 2017. /UPDATE

Since the next female Marine Officer has failed out of the Infantry Officer Basic Course at Quantico more than one Marine has claimed, “that settles it, Marine IOBC is harder than Ranger school.

The Army has recycled and passed 3 female Rangers to date. The US Army Ranger school has an attrition rate that historically averages 50%. The SEAL training pipeline is as high as 80% attrition. The USMC IOBC attrition rate is 25%. So how can a school with a higher attrition rate be less hard than a school with a lower attrition rate?

It doesn’t. All three of these schools are leadership schools that are designed to prepare people to go into combat, and lead Soldiers or Sailors, or Marines, in combat. The attrition in each school happens for many different reasons. In Ranger school, most fail in the first week, also the same for USMC IOBC. The female Rangers that made it out of the first week did not make it through the course on the first shot, which reflects the Army’s recycle and retrain policy. The USMC doesn’t have a similar recycle and retrain policy. The SEALs don’t have a recycle and retrain policy.

These schools are not easy, and passing one of them doesn’t mean you’ll pass either of the others. Sometimes it is just bad luck, sometimes a SEAL just can’t handle the starvation of Ranger school. Sometimes a Marine Infantry Officer just doesn’t have what it takes to be a SEAL, or Ranger. That is ok, and anyone who ever threw their hat into the ring deserves respect for that alone.

Eventually a woman will pass USMC IOBC, and no matter what the reality of it is some people will claim the standards were lowered for her. Just like the folks who claimed that the standards were lowered for the three female Rangers who graduated. Eventually there will be a female SEAL, and she will have a set of brass balls like nobodies business. However there will never be an entire regiment of female Rangers, nor an entire SEAL team made up of females. There just aren’t enough world class athletes volunteering to fill the ranks. The first three female Rangers were two West Point graduates and a competitive marathoner, not typical female Army soldiers. The first female SEAL or USMC IOBC grad will probably be some Annapolis alum who juices testosterone and despises her period.

So is USMC IOBC actually harder than Ranger school? No clue. Never went through USMC IOBC. If you ignore the enlisted numbers and only compare Army Infantry Officer graduation rates from Ranger school, it’s much closer to even. The Army IOBC has a very low attrition rate, but Ranger school washes out about 25% of the Infantry Officers who go through, and if you only count the Infantry Officers who get through Ranger school without recycling any phases, that number drops by about half. So is Ranger school harder? No, it’s just different.

Where Ranger school is different is that your peers, and future subordinates, get a say in whether or not you get to wear the tab. The USMC IOBC isn’t like that, your peers can hate your guts and as long as you meet the graduation requirements you can go be a Marine Infantry Officer. Every Ranger who wears the tab was chosen by his, or her, peers to wear the tab, just like every SEAL or Green Beret. It’s different, and that is why SEALs, Rangers, Green Berets have little pieces of cloth that mean something, and often mean different things to different people.

Marine Infantry Officers do go through hell, and their training is intense. But there is a reason that the USMC sends their Infantry Officers to Ranger school or Recon Leaders course before allowing them to command in Force Recon. It’s just different, and volunteering for a step outside of normal.

UPDATE: Yup, the USMC PAO wouldn’t let this story out if her graduation wasn’t a done deal: Whoever she is, good for her.

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