The fight for fully gender-integrated Marine Corps boot camp continues

Elizabeth Howe
June 13, 2019 - 11:54 am

Photo courtesy of Lance Cpl. Joseph Jacob | DVIDS

Congress has taken the first step in forcing the Marine Corps to integrate females into boot camp — the latest move in an ongoing effort to remove one of the last limits on females in the military.

On Wednesday, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel subcommittee, introduced an amendment to the 2020 defense authorization bill that would prohibit gender-segregated training.

If the amendment were to pass, the commandant of the Marine Corps would have five years to end all separation of males and females at Parris Island. The amendment also mandates that the Marine Corps' west coast training operations — which no women currently attend — must be fully integrated in eight years.

The Marine Corps' boot camp is one of the very last gender-segregated operations in the military — every operational role, including combat roles, opened to females in 2015. 

"Fully integrating women is not only the right thing to do, it makes our military stronger," Speier said during Wednesday's hearing. "The women Marines serving in recently opened combat positions that I have met are immeasurably brave, tough, and inspiring. Each of them have had to prove themselves, over and over again, to male peers and superiors."

Earlier this year, the Marine Corps conducted an experiment of sorts by integrating a limited number of females into a boot camp class at Parris Island.

Male and female Marine platoons train together in boot camp for the first time

Soon after graduation, a Marine Corps spokesperson communicated that the Corps was undecided about whether or not further integration would be implemented — despite no significant problems with the experiment.

USMC move to integrate boot camp more ends; future unclear

However, the next commandant of the Marine Corps made a statement at the beginning of May that seemed to imply more integration was in the pipeline. 

More integration on the way for Marine Corps boot camp, next commandant says

Others are not so convinced that the Corps is going about integration effectively — including retired Lt. Col. Kate Germano, Marine Corps veteran and author of "Fight Like a Girl." 

“I would be interested in learning about the Marine Corps approach," Germano said in a January interview with Connecting Vets. "In other words, this seems to be a spur of the moment type of experiment as opposed to a well-thought-out campaign plan and that’s kind of disappointing to me. I do know that there are a lot of eyes on the service and there has also been in the past year a lot of evidence that indicates that integration really does improve trust and cohesion and I think that will make a difference for this class, in particular.”

Marine retired Lt. Col. isn’t totally sold on boot camp integration

Speier's amendment passed the House Armed Services Committee by a 31 to 26 vote. Now, it needs to be approved by the full House before it progresses to the Republican-dominated Senate.

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