The Marine Corps is creating an experimental task force consisting of at least 25 percent women to determine how to incorporate female Marines into ground combat units.
The task force will comprise about 460 Marines, with about 120 of them women, and will be similar to the ground combat portion of a Marine Expeditionary Unit, reports Stars and Stripes
Both sexes will have to meet a physical standard to qualify for the Camp Lejeune, N.C., -based unit, which will be made up of volunteers and is expected to be ready this fall.
The task force will be evaluated until the summer of 2015, but Marine officials may open new jobs to women in the meantime, according to spokeswoman Capt. Maureen Krebs.
"It's going to be an incremental process," she told the newspaper.
After the Pentagon last year ordered the armed forces to open all combat jobs to women by 2016. the different services have focused on developing the physical standards required for combat arms jobs in order to be able to screen applicants, reports USA Today
The Marines have gone further, trying to determine how women will perform over long periods in jobs that require extreme physical strength and stamina.
"We really want to get at answering that question and we need to do that by simulating an operational environment," said Marine Brig. Gen. George Smith, who is leading the efforts to study the integration of women into ground combat units.
He said that the women will be dispersed throughout the unit, including in infantry squads, artillery gun sections and tank crews, explaining, "It will mirror what we have out in the operating forces today."
The Marine Corps this month reportedly opened an additional 11 specialties to women, reducing the number fields closed to them to about 20 out of some 335 fields.
But jobs like the infantry and special forces have remained closed.
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