With female soldiers expected to take part in direct ground combat by 2016, the military is re-evaluating its initial claims that combat-duty standards will be gender-blind, and is looking at ways to modify its training programs.
The changes for infantry, tank, and special operations units could include a two-tiered system or gender-segregated boot camps, said senior military commanders, The Washington Times reported Thursday.
The Pentagon lifted the ban on women in combat in January. The military services and the U.S. Special Operations Command intend to move female soldiers into those roles in January 2016.
Rep. Niki Tsongas, a Massachusetts Democrat, told a hearing of the House Armed Services subcommittee that combat standards should be gender-neutral – but training may have to vary "in order for women to have success," the Times reported.
"To put in place a training regimen that is ill-suited to maximizing the success of women is not really the outcome any of us want to see," Tsongas said.
An Army official testified the idea made sense because "we're trying to expand our understanding of how we train."
"We are looking at that, and we're not looking at it just for the integration of women," Army Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg, deputy chief of staff for personnel, testified. "We're looking at it for the total soldier, because just as you have a 110-pound male who may lack some type of physiological capability or physical capability, he or she may both need to be trained differently."
Lt. Gen. Robert Milstead Jr., deputy Marine Corps commandant for manpower, testified that the Corps' existing male- and female-only boot camps could serve as the ideal model.
"Our boot camp is about the transformation of individuals, men and women, from being a civilian to being a United States Marine," he said. "We have it separated for that reason, because we feel that this transformation, it goes on a separate track. It needs to be handled different.
"They need to be nurtured different. They just need different steps as they go. They end up in the same place, the United States Marines," Milstead said.
The Washington Times noted that so far, the Marine Corps has been at the forefront of the women-in-combat issue. It has asked female officer volunteers to try its officer combat qualification course at Quantico, Va., where they are required to perform the same tasks as the male officers.
All six women who took the course dropped out, either because of injury or failure to complete the course, the newspaper reported.
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