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Marines, Army prepare women for combat

The military is taking steps to prepare women for combat roles in 2016.

The Marine Corps announced that it would give young female lieutenants who wash out of the grueling Infantry Officer Course a second shot, same as their male counterparts.

The Army is conducting a study to test just how fit a soldier has to be to engage in combat. The study involves 60 women and 100 men.

CBS News reported on both developments last week.

The Marine Corps announcement came after Marine 2nd Lt. Sage Santangelo took the Infantry Officer Court and wrote about her experience last month in an op-ed in The Washington Post. She didn’t make it past the first day and blamed the Marine Corps for a dual standard that sets up women to flunk the course.

Fifteen young women Marines have taken the course. All washed out and all but one washed out on the first day.

She wrote that male officers could retake the course if they failed, but that women could not.

The commandant of the Marine Corps ordered the change after he read her op-ed.

"I'm very humbled that he would consider my opinions and my thoughts," Santangelo, 24, told CBS. "I'm hopeful that it will help others, and I'm glad to see that he's doing that."

The Marines invited female officers to take the Infantry Officer Course in 2012. The 13-week course tests the mettle of potential infantry officers.

Santangelo said there came a point when she could not persuade her body to perform. “It wasn’t a matter of will, but of pure physical strength,” she wrote. “My mind wanted more, but my muscles quivered in failure after multiple attempts. I began to shiver as I got cold. I was told I could not continue.”

CBS said Santangelo is not going to try again. She is being sent to Afghanistan.

The Army plans to use its study to determine new fitness standards for combat jobs, something the military has never done before, even for male soldiers.

"We've known for a long time that these particular jobs are hard on the body, so this study focuses more on what the physical requirements are to do these jobs," Col. Scott Jackson, a combat brigade commander told CBS.

CBS said commanders acknowledge many women won't meet the new standards, but stricter testing will also disqualify some men from jobs they would have gotten automatically in the past.

Jackson says it could be a surprise for some men.

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