Integration plan announced for female Marines training in combat roles

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    U.S. Marines assigned to the female engagement team (FET) attached to Foxtrot Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment conduct a security patrol in Marjah, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Jan. 3, 2011. The FET aids the infantry Marines by engaging Afghan women and children in support of the International Security Assistance Force. (DoD photo by Cpl. Marionne T. Mangrum, U.S. Marine Corps /Released)

    Preparing for the potential surge of women entering recruit and training schools that were once off-limits to them, the Marine Corps has approved their gender integration plan.

    According to Marine Times, Defense Secretary Ash Carter has formally approved the military’s plan to allow women to serve in male-only combat occupational specialties.

    In light of this, Marine Corps Commandant General Robert Neller has ordered the USMC Combat Development command to take measure in ensuring all training facilities have accommodations to make room for up to 15% female personnel.

    The arbitrary-sounding 15% figure is little more than a set number to ensure that the training centers can house a standard  of housing and equipment for female Marines.

    Current gender integration plans call for all ground combat arms troops at battalion level to have at least two female officers or NCOs from the Department of the Navy (of which the Marine Corps is a part of) at least three months before the newly-trained enlisted female Marines arrive.

    The end goal is to have enough female officers and NCOs serving in ground units as to make the need for a set number of leaders obsolete.

    “Female leaders’ principal role is to serve in their PMOSs [ primary MOSs] in ground combat arms units,” the document stated. “Their presence is also intended to help acculturate and socialize previously all-male units to working with female Marines. Finally, their presence will also create mentorship opportunities with female (and male) Marines.”

    The Marines will maintain their policy of assigning personnel across the branch to meet the needs of the Corps.

    “As a result of our research, the Marine Corps instituted clearly defined gender neutral, operationally relevant, individual performance standards across the spectrum of Marine training and military occupation system (MOS) designation, which facilitates the matching of Marines to jobs for which they are best qualified,” said Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Philip Kulczewski.

    The Marine Corps provided the following further specifics on the implementation:

    “The implementation plan was deliberately and thoughtfully designed to ensure that the Marine Corps takes advantage of this opportunity to maximize the talent and skills of all its Marines and to make sure we sustain the most combat effective force,” said Maj. Misty Posey, plans officer for Manpower Plans Integration.

    A large subject of controversy is the idea that the Marine Corps will lower physical standards because of this change.

    “That’s absolutely not the case; that’s never been part of the plan,” said Posey. “In most cases, when we codified our standard, they actually are higher than what they were before.”

    The implementation process can be broken down into four broad sections: screening, classification, qualification and continuation.

    SCREENING

    When an applicant applies for a ground combat arms military occupation specialty they are required to meet the screening standard before leaving for recruit training.

    To meet the screening standard, the applicant must complete a ground combat arms initial strength test. This test is very similar to the current IST. They will execute pull-ups, crunches and a 1.5-mile run, with the addition of ammo can lifts. Both men and women will need to get a minimum of three pull-ups.

    “As you travel through the entry-level pipeline, the test gets a little bit harder and a little bit more direct,” said Posey.

    CLASSIFICATION

    While in recruit training, the recruit must meet a specific score on both the physical fitness test and the combat fitness test to attend a ground combat arms MOS school after graduating. This time around, both men and women must get a minimum of 6 pull-ups on the PFT in addition to a specific score or higher.

    If a recruit does not pass the classification standard they will be put into another MOS they are physically qualified for.

    “When a recruit passes an MOS classification standard, which consists of PFT and CFT events, that tells the Marine Corps that they have the minimum level of physical prowess to begin their MOS school,” said Posey. “It doesn’t guarantee that they will pass it.”

    QUALIFICATION

    During a ground combat arms MOS school, both men and women must pass the MOS specific physical standard.

    These standards are not as straight forward as getting a particular score on the PFT and CFT because they vary depending on the MOS and fall in line with the existing tests of the school.

    “If you must hike under load over a certain distance carrying a certain weight to be in that MOS, well that’s exactly what you are going to do,” said Posey.

    CONTINUATION

    Once a Marine has passed a ground combat arms MOS school they will finally be sent to their new unit, but the evaluation of their physical performance does not stop.

    “Once you get the MOS and you’re in the operating forces, to keep that MOS you have to continually prove that you have the physical prowess to serve in that MOS,” said Posey.

    Proving a Marine who is still physically capable and proficient at their respective MOS will be up to the units’ commanding officers. The evaluations will vary and can be done as a unit during an exercise or training event.

    “We want to make sure the standards provide reasonable assurance that a Marine can physically perform and even excel in their MOS,” said Posey. “But we want to also make sure that the physical standards are not unnecessarily high because then you exclude qualified women and men.”

    UNIT ASSIGNMENT CRITERIA

    Marines directly in a ground combat arms MOS are not the only ones affected by the integration.

    A load-bearing unit is any ground combat arms unit that is the most physically demanding for support MOS Marines. These include units such as infantry, reconnaissance, light-armored reconnaissance and more.

    For support MOS Marines to be assigned to such units they must meet the unit assignment criteria, which is having a high first-class annual PFT and CFT.

    “So Marines take their PFT and CFT, their scores are reported and when monitors are making assignments to units, they will simply look at the scores to determine who is eligible for assignment to a load-bearing, ground combat arms unit and who is not,” said Posey.

    To help prevent these load-bearing units of having institutional biases toward women, each one will have a few senior enlisted female Marines. These Marines will be there to perform their duties while helping male Marines get used to having women around and can also act as mentors to both male and female junior Marines.

    These senior enlisted Marines will need to meet all of the same standards in order to be assigned to these units.

    Posey believes that integration and this plan will only strengthen the Marine Corps as a whole.

    More people competing for the same jobs and assignments will help create a definitive standard across the board.

    “When you broaden the population from which you select your best and most fully qualified Marines, you’re opening up to more competition and competition tends to drive up performance,” said Posey. “If I have ten applicants for a job and I only have room for five, why not interview all ten because then I will probably get the best five.”

    This plan will allow for the best and brightest, regardless of gender, to have the opportunity to prove their talents and skills while truly being part of the team.

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