Women in combat at disadvantage, Marine Corps study shows

CBS News has the results of a one-of-a-kind Marine Corps experiment that will help determine the future of women in war. The study compared men and women fighting side by side, and the final report released Thursday says men performed significantly better and got hurt less often.

CBS News' Jan Crawford and her team spent several days in the California desert back in March watching the experiment and talking to the men and women who volunteered.

Now the results are in, and for those arguing women should be able to perform all of the same combat jobs as the men, the news is discouraging.

It was as close to war as you could get: an unprecedented scientific study, men and women enlisted Marines, side by side, for months of simulated battle.

Throughout, researchers watched and recorded their performance to help determine what impact women would have on combat. Even then, the women realized they were at a disadvantage.

"It's not that we can't carry weight. We can carry the weight. It's the pace, especially when we match up with the males. You're looking at our size, and we have males that are almost 6 foot with longer strides, and it's hard to catch up with them, keep up with them," Cpl. Janelle Lopez said.

That is what the results show: In almost every area, the all-male units performed significantly better than those with both men and women Marines.

The men were faster "in each tactical movement," had "better accuracy" and were "quicker." They "registered more hits on target" and had "a noticeable difference in their performance" of overcoming obstacles and "evacuating casualties." The Marines commissioned the study after then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in 2013 ordered the military to open all combat jobs to women.

Most branches are ready to comply, and just last month, two women passed the Army's toughest test to become Army Rangers.

"We can handle things physically and mentally on the same level as men and that we can deal with the same stresses and training that the men can," said Capt. Kristen Griest, one of the two women.

The women Rangers said the standards should not be lowered. The women Marines CBS News spoke to agreed. They said few would want these jobs, but if there is just one who can do it, she should get the chance.

"It takes a special person, a special drive and a special mindset and a special heart to do this. There's not many of us. And it goes the same way for the men," Sgt. Danielle Beck said.

The Marines will make the decision on seeking an exception sometime this fall.