A four-page summary of a nine-month experiment, known as the Ground Combat Integrated Task Force (GCITF) has set off a seemingly endless debate over whether women are truly fit to serve in Marine infantry units.
There have been countless reports in the media about how certain jobs in the military are just meant for men and that the Dept. of Defense has a tough decision ahead.
However, female Marines and potential candidates got a very public show of support last Thursday from the newly instated Marine commandant, General Robert Neller.
“To me it’s personally insulting to talk about women in combat. Women have been in combat,” he said. Neller pointed out to a “theater full of Marines” at Quantico that the current debate was about women being “directly assigned” to positions in ground combat units such as the infantry.
“This has nothing to do about women in combat….I buried three women in Iraq in 2006 and they died alongside 311 men,” Neller told them.
Neller also took the time Thursday to praise the efforts of those who participated in the experiment: “The Marines who were a part of the GCITF did a great a job…they worked their tails off,” said Neller.
“The people that made it to the end deserve our gratitude for their discipline and strength and fortitude to make it to the end,” he added.
The GCITF study indicated that women were “more prone to injury” and performed poorly at a majority of infantry-focused tasks in comparison to their male counterparts.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus criticized the experiment, almost discounting it entirely, by saying that the women tested should have had a “higher bar to cross” to get into the study. He also said the Marines who carried out the experiment had a “predisposed mindset” from the start.
According to officials, then-Commandant Joseph Dunford asked for an “exemption to the 2013 mandate” that all jobs in the military be open to women by the new year. Dunford reportedly requested that Marine infantry and reconnaissance units remain closed to women, the Washington Post reported.
But Secretary Mabus has made it repeatedly clear that he “will not seek an exemption for either the Navy or the Marine Corps.” Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) has called for Mabus’s resignation, according to the Post.
Neller said in response to Dunford’s request: “…right now it is the policy of the Marine Corps that we’re not going to talk about what that recommendation was because we’re going to let the Secretary of Defense make his decision.”
Both the Navy and Air Force plan to open all jobs to women by January 1 —including special operations. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told reporters last week that he would not review the service’s recommendation on gender integration for “some months.”