Following over a year of defence Department discussions about opening combat jobs to women, the Marine Corps is doing something new to see which roles could become available to female troops.
Assistant Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford said the Corps is “soliciting” women to enroll at the historically male-only Infantry Officers Course in Quantico, Virginia, reports James Sanborn at Marine Corps Times.
Sanborn reports the school will begin training female Marines sometime this year. It’s all part of an “extensive research campaign.”
This doesn’t mean women will take on ground combat roles in the near future. For the time being, they’ll have the opportunity to go through the paces of infantry schooling and it’s not known what happens after that. Officials at Quantico are holding back on revealing those details.
With female students training for jobs that don’t yet exist for them, the Marine Corps is essentially experimenting to see what kind of results women will yield from being assigned to Infantry Training Battalions.
From Marine Corps Times:
Officials don’t yet know how many women — officer or enlisted — will be put into the academic pipeline for the Corps’ “03” infantry occupational code, Dunford said. All will be volunteers — and it remains to be seen how many will answer the call, he said.
Back in February, Matt Millham at Stars & Stripes interviewed soldiers deployed to Afghanistan who supported the idea of women serving in the infantry, but also questioned how the change would “play out on the front lines.” It’s the tough matter of determining how something works in theory versus practice.
One reader’s comment on the Stripes article is worth sharing here. Service member Ryan Heidelberger had a pragmatic observation:
Women are different than men, that’s a good thing. Women cannot be in the field for weeks on end without sanitary facilities.
The inconvenient truth of what would happen four weeks into an operation outside the wire can’t be denied.
We won’t go into detail here, but while there are medical solutions to address Heidelberg’s concern, the comment makes a practical point.
[Women’s] bodies are not built to haul a 240B [machine gun] for extended distances. Add a ruck and rounds to that and you have a difficult task to complete even for some infantrymen.
That statement could be put to the test officially.
The Marine Corps Times also reports the Corps is looking into developing a new fitness test that will apply “gender-neutral” physical standards, meaning men and women would be assessed equally, rather than with a gender bias.
The suggestion is that male and female troops could be evaluated in the future “simply as infantrymen” or which ever job class they hold. They’ll be held to the same competitive standards.
Currently,”gender-normed” standards are applied to physical fitness. For example, women are not expected to do the same number of repetitions as men during the test, and they can obtain a maximum score with a slower run time.
Those kinds of gender-normed standards won’t go very far in a combat job. They won’t even get you into the infantry.
As combat veteran Jonn Lilyea at This Ain’t Hell points out: “Combat for infantrymen has just one standard and I’m pretty certain that our enemies don’t have a specific standard for engaging women in combat that is different from their standard for engaging men or bullets that adjust for gender.”
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