The Marine Corps has opened the door to integrating women into combat units beginning with first-ever female enrollment in its elite infantry officer training school and in battalion units, according to The New York Times
The women who complete the infantry officer training will not become officers, but will move to other training programs. But the move is one step closer to integration.
For the battalion units, an “all Marine Message” — or ALMAR — was issued by Gen. James Amos, the Marine Corps commandant, on Monday, April 23, alerting to the assignment of “active duty, unrestricted, female company grade officers, gunnery sergeants . . . to artillery, tank, amphibious assault, combat engineer, combat assault” positions to study how women will perform in previously male-only units.
Until now, women had been relegated to function in “support roles like communications and logistics,” according to the Marine Corps Times.
The New York Times reports that in the coming months, the Marine Corps plans to assign about 40 women to the battalions, where they will serve in specialties that they are already trained in. The battalion level is closer to the front line than previously allowed.
The ALMAR reported that future recommendations would be made regarding “potential assignment of women to ground combat elements,” to ensure equal opportunities to women.
To silence critics who say the Marines will simply try to use endurance tests to exclude the women, new fitness tests were being developed to monitor how men and women perform in combat tasks, with a goal of “gender-neutral” standards, according to the Marine Corps Times.
The announcement comes on the heels of a new Pentagon policy that lifts restrictions on some front-line duties — but stops short of allowing women to serve in direct combat positions including in infantry or commando units where combat would be a primary mission.
The exact roles the women will fulfill once completing training at the school is unclear. The Marine Corps Times indicated that details of the plan would be revealed in upcoming days.
The Marine Corps is the most male-dominated of the armed forces, with women comprising about 7 percent of total personnel, according to the Times.
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