The first female Marines to “hang with the boys” in infantry units will be sharing holes and tents with their male counterparts during field exercises, a reinforcement of the notion that women who can hack the rigors of infantry life will be treated no differently than men.
“We’re not changing any of our tactical posture or breaking unit cohesion or adjusting anything to accommodate mixed genders while we’re operating in a field environment replicating tactical conditions,” said Maj. Charles Anklam III, the executive officer for 1st Battalion, 8th Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
After receiving three female Marines on January 5, the battalion has doubled down on the idea that women will be training -and fighting- with their unit as if they were men, despite having separate facilities back in garrison.
“Our female Marines will find themselves side-by-side their male counterparts in a fighting hole or in their living conditions for the execution of field or deployed duties,” Anklam said.
That said, the female troops have been given some leeway when they aren’t in training or combat.
“Typically you’ll find within an infantry battalion like in this building, we’ve got a downstairs and an upstairs head facility,” he said. “We’ve been able to allocate one of those for the use of female members and then the other for male members.”
Prior to the female Marines’ arrival, Lieutenant Colonel Reginald McClam said that unit leadership took part in figuring out how to best integrate women into the unit.
We placed a continued emphasis on the corporal through first lieutenant because that’s the small unit leadership, the middle management, that really is critical in carrying out my commander’s intent and the policy and guidelines of Headquarters Marine Corps,” he said.
Battalion logistics officer Captain Katharine Gibbons-Neff is one of several female officers in the battalion who serve as a sounding board for the female enlisted, though her interaction with them will be deliberately limited.
“The existing female leadership is not in the immediate chain of command for the female infantry Marines,” Gibbons-Neff told the Marine Corps Times. “We don’t expect or outright condone that the female Marines go outside of their chain command to seek counsel solely on the basis of gender- unless they’ve been specifically directed to do so by their chain of command.”
LtCol McClam says the mission will stay the same, regardless of gender.
“This is what I told the staff,” McClam said, “I joined the Marine Corps to lead Marines and sailors. I didn’t take an oath of office that said I was going to lead male Marines or female Marines or male sailors or female sailors. I said I would lead Marines.”
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