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Marine Corps may ditch gender identifies in boot camp so recruits don’t have to assume genders

Incentive Training Session Boot Camp
Photo by Pfc. Sarah Stegal

An evaluation commissioned by the United States Marine Corps suggests removing gender-specific terms for drill instructors- but the USMC isn’t so convinced.

The report was done by the University of Pittsburgh, after being commissioned by the USMC in 2020, and came to an end in 2022.

The study showed that while roughly half the military had done away with gendered identifiers, and claimed that the USMC should follow suit.

“The Army, Navy, and Coast Guard effectively de-emphasize gender in an integrated environment,” the report stated. “Instead of saying ‘ma’am’ or ‘sir,’ recruits in these Services refer to their drill instructors using their ranks or roles followed by their last names. Gendered identifiers prime recruits to think about or visually search for a drill instructor’s gender first, before their rank or role.”

However, Corps leadership feels that such a matter requires a lot of time, effort and changes- and brings into question what value those changes would even bring to the USMC culture.

“That’s going to take some effort,” Col. Howard Hall, chief of staff for Marine Corps Training and Education Command, told the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services in December. “Honestly, that’s not a quick fix. What are inculcating in our young recruits that will or will not be reinforced when they graduate and enter the fleet Marine force? So again, we want to avoid any quick-fix solutions that introduce perturbations down the line.”

According to the Marine Corps Times, the USMC has the smallest number of female servicemembers and has not placed a priority on integration as the other services have.

Despite this, the study’s authors felt the change should begin at boot camp, with the way drill instructors are addressed.

“Gender-neutral identifiers are an unambiguous, impartial way to circumvent these issues,” the authors wrote. “Employing gender-neutral identifiers eliminates the possibility of misgendering drill instructors, which can unintentionally offend or cause discord. By teaching recruits to use gender-neutral identifiers for their drill instructors, Services underscore the importance of respecting authoritative figures regardless of gender.”

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