I recently wrote a long piece on Women in the Military
over some major changes to the way that the US Marine Corps is going to fight its wars. Over the last few months there has been a massive shake-up in the US Marine Corps, in what some, including myself, are calling heavy handed, dictatorial, and perhaps even ill-advised decisions to “modernize” the most lethal warfighting organization in the world. This criticism, however, doesn’t relate to opening of the infantry to women, however, but to other demands for change also placed on the branch this month.
Between December 4th and January 6th, two major Department of the Navy memos were sent out to key commanders of the Marine Corps by way of Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. The first, was the groundbreaking decision, one made against Marine Corps recommendation and against the recent findings of numerous studies performed by the Marines, to fully integrate women into all combat roles. Many of us are undecided on whether this is a good thing for the military overall, not knowing if the added value of a few good women will significantly increase the number of capable warfighters, or whether their contributions will not outweigh the potential loss of manpower risk posed by events such as their increased rate injuries or eventually starting a family, as well as the logistical burden an integrated force will have on deployed forces.
It’s a future that I personally would like to see, but having read from many differing accounts, I have many concerns. I’ve attempted to voice many of the problems and conflicts such a decision would bring about for the armed services. What I, and many Marines, have a problem with, is the way in which this process of inclusion was done. I find that the manner in which this decision was made was in such a way as to serve as a great disservice to the military as a whole, the Marines who took part in the studies, and even the women in question. Frankly, there has been a great deal of evolution and debate, but most of the key issues I’ve had since the beginning have been completely ignored by recent policy enactments. The question isn’t being asked, “Is this a sound policy for the future of the Marine Corps and American national security?” Instead, we are promoting women in the forces not because it helps the nation’s military, but because it helps the cause of women. While I am supportive to the cause of women, as a veteran of the Marines, and knowing that their struggles are not of equal pay in the workplace, but of the chance of death or living a life of dismemberment and trauma, my loyalty in this regard goes to them. If the cause of women can be helped, that is a wonderful thing, but if such a policy harms the chances of mission success overall in the military, or the survivability of any of the Marines, both male or female, it shouldn’t be supported.Right now, we still hang in the balance of not knowing what women in the infantry will mean. We simply don’t know, but the gavel has fallen anyway, and those who question the ruling, are currently facing the hangman’s noose of social justice. This, I feel, was a detrimental failure in the administration, whereby an attempt to force the matter prematurely was made, not in an attempt to better the forces, but due to political pressures aimed around promoting equal rights, but in a realm where equality rights was never the issue to begin with.
The idea of women serving on the front doesn’t honestly bother. I hope it works, I sincerely do, though as I have said before, I am very disappointed that the Marine Corps was forced into the integration prematurely in the manner in which they were. As I said in the answer before.
What I can say is that I don’t feel that the way in which it happened was correct. Blindly ignoring the studies and experience of the world’s most lethal organization in the area they excel above all others was a failure. More so, I don’t think this had much to do with what is best for the Marines, or the military as a whole, but of political expediency to further the political aims of a few politicians. The manner in which the rug was pulled from beneath the Marines was one that will leave lasting conflict within the service. Instead of welcoming the women into their new roles, they will be forced into it artificially. The manner in which this decision was made, quite honestly, was too soon, for all the wrong reasons, and a disservice most of all, to the women who will be first to enter this role.
That’s all I want to say on the December 4th announcement, though I would encourage everyone to read the full article
for in depth analysis of the decision, and the debate over it, as well as the way in which it was handed down.
What actually concerns me far more is the more recent announcement that Marine Corps boot camp, will be forced to fully integrate with coed training. This mandate was one which I consider to be exceptionally ill-advised for reasons I will explain throughout the article. More so than this, it was mandated in what is being called conservatively as an “aggressive timeline” where massive changes to the Marine Corps most important institutions are being given only fifteen days, from January 1 to the 15th, to completely redesign the training method, as well as many of their facilities, and to have the entirely new approach in operation by April. I want to be honest, I was cautiously optimistic about the call to open the infantry to women, but I feel that this newest policy is a complete failure on the part of the person charged with safeguarding not only the men and women of the Marine Corps, but also their future success as a military force.
How is this different from today?
Currently, Marine Corp basic training is segregated by gender. Male Marine recruits are trained in San Diego, CA or Parris Island, SC. All female recruits are trained in Parris Island, as part of the 4th Recruit Training Battalion. 4th Battalion Marine recruits enjoy (term chosen loosely) the same facilities and training as their 1st – 3rd Battalion male counterparts. They eat at the same facilities, hike the same routes, shoot at the same ranges, and live in identical barracks to the men. The only aspect noteworthy to boot camp that is very much different than the rest of Marine Corps training, is that men and women do not mix in boot camp.
To begin, I’ve dedicated a great deal of time and effort to communicating how Marine Corps boot camp works, why it works, how it is different from that of other branches, and namely, why it produces the largest crop of the highest caliber warfighters alive today. You can read much of that here: What is the logic behind making military boot camps so intensive?
What I have come to learn is that the way that the United States Marines produce warfighters in unparalleled among all other military organizations of our era. No other training environment creates in its basically trained warriors such a high degree of exceptional fighters. This is due, in no small part, to its mastery of psychological factors and incentive training system, regardless of the world famous rigor highlighted in every evolution of their training. It does this, as I have said either, with identical training, facilities, and expectations of both its male and female Marines, with no policy that discriminates against either, nor hinders their career development. This isn’t to say that there is forever exclusion between the men and women, but only during the formative months of boot camp, where they are still learning to be Marines, rather than just a collection of individuals.
For example, immediately after boot camp in the Marines, there is the School of Infantry (SOI) and Marine Combat Training (MCT). These schools teach basic infantry tactics and abilities to all Marines. The School of Infantry focuses on Marines whose primary job is infantry fighting. I’ll say this, since it is basic job training, by this point, it should be fully integrated to the best of the SOI’s ability, i.e. the same as Army boot camp is now with separate billeting, but the same on everything else. MCT the same way, if it isn’t already done so on the East Coast. Likely, since the December mandate opening the infantry, we will start to see this very soon, anyway. The only reason there are probably no women in SOI now is because those who joined in December, aren’t even through first phase of boot camp. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if the first batch of women start showing up at SOI in the early spring.
This would mirror how training is already done at all other MOS (Military Occupational Schools) and has been done for many, many years. There women who have completed their MCT training, join men in completely the same training, in the same platoons, same, same, same. We even had a women who was one of our squad leaders. This was back in 2004 and this, is why I argue that the Marine Corps doesn’t have an integration problem. Their job training saw men and women treated equally and with the same responsibilities, and since MOS school is often much longer than boot camp, I fail to see how this training is being overlooked, as if the first time a Marine sees a female of the species is when they show up together in Iraq or Afghanistan.
At all times where men and women have been employed together, they trained together. The soul exception being that of boot camp, which I have said before, is a good thing. “Boots” are immature. Many lack a firm understand of how to be an adult, let alone be a Marine. Few understand responsibility and are realistically, still kids. Of course there are many who are not this way, but many who need the military to grow them up. They need the three month intensive period to learn to operate as a Marine before they learn to operate in the Marines.
What is being proposed, is that this needs to change. No… “proposed” would imply that there was a discussion, where the legitimacy of such a system would be talked about, the experts on both sides would have made valid and respected arguments, and that it might be possible to consider that the world’s premier force perhaps has more understanding of how to produce world class warriors than those who do not take part in the warfighting profession. Instead, the Marine Corps has been “directed” to “correct itself” by the same Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.
That said, I have to ask, what possible benefit does full inclusion in basic training possibly offer that in any way improves the quality of service, or even better the prospects of women of the service? I have no idea how creating a training platoon that does not live, eat, breathe, shower, sleep and piss together, as part of a single unit, will lend itself towards the creation of unit cohesiveness for the Corps, nor do I possibly understand how it will improve upon its standards.
The mastery of boot camp is focus. You don’t communicate back home for months. You don’t have access to social media, or media of any kind. You are basically cut off from the rest of the world. There are as few sources to prevent focus as can possibly exist. It is literally just you and your fellow recruits, that insular platoon for three months. As a young newlywed, only having been married not a week when I joined, I understood this hardship greatly, but having gone through that, I understood the need for it, too. You wouldn’t have had the quality of training with more distractions. When you deal with one of the only professions where life and death matters are not a thing of hyperbole, eliminating those distractions matters.
For the types of recruits that willingly go to the Marines, you deal with many of the types that do well in segregated environments. These are the young ones looking for challenge, needing the adrenaline high, and dripping with testosterone. I’ll say it another way that these are the types of young men you don’t trust with your daughters, for good enough reasons. By my estimation and experience, females of the Marine Corps have the same prerogative. They are alphas in their own right, and many come in with just as little natural discipline as their male counterparts. That said, I don’t honestly feel the need these two types of people should be given the opportunity to damage promising careers through integration. That is to say nothing of the thousands of others who would just find it too difficult not to sneak a peak, when otherwise, they would have been fine just paying attention to the instructor give a class that may one day have saved their life or the life of another Marine.
Frankly, adding sexual temptation to the mix doesn’t improve the Marine Corps’s system of creating Marines, as there is a cost/benefit that must be measured. I do not see how “helping Marines integrate” isn’t already served after boot camp through occupational specialty training and through all the training they will undertake together in the fleet, so sacrificing the focus and immersion recruits get from the training doesn’t actually seem like a gain. As I have said before, I do not know how the Army is able to do it.
I’m not alone in asking these questions. U.S. Marine veteran, Captain and Counterintelligence officer Eric Kirsch spoke on the subject. He first made comments in regard to Secretary Mabus:
“The Navy Secretary served for 24 months (1971-1972) in a non combat role within the United States Navy prior to attending Harvard Law School.He issued his memo request on 1 JAN and expects a detailed plan to be delivered no later than 15 JAN, erasing 241 years in 14 days, the United States Marine Corps, compliant to lawful order, obedient and faithful, always, is scrambling to dismantle title, as if it were an gangrenous arbitrary item and they have 5 further business days in which to do it.”
Then Kirsch continues:
“I served with Males and Females and Homosexuals and I’m cool with Transgendered because nothing would make me happier then hearing the frantic stuttering hand held radio transmissions of ISIS fighters announcing the assault of fabulous Marines who also enjoy alternative lifestyles raining steel upon their intolerant bullshit.That said, I believe, firmly, in gender segregation, in basic training….why WOULD YOU NOT SEGREGATE GENDERS? Of what benefit to either gender is mixing the two in initial training? If you got something I do not know about, regarding how it will IMPROVE the Marine Corps, sound the fuck off, I beg you.
Some are calling the act of recruit segregation in basic training just a “tradition”, and Marines like Kirsch simply overly conservative, or worse, dogmatic or even subconsciously bigoted. While some argue the effectiveness of the training, others are arguing that the sentiment is merely steeped in sexist ideology, echoing throughout individual Marines’ careers. Right now, the most logical argument I’ve seen is based on unit cohesion, “Officer and enlisted basic training is the first opportunity to develop the cohesion needed for full integration of women in the Armed Forces,” said a senior defense official with knowledge of the situation.
That word though, “tradition”. I don’t like it. It paints an image of the Marine Corps as having no logical reason for the decisions they make, but just a backward collective of old men who don’t read the news and no understanding of science. The word suggests that there is no empirical data and research with which they base their beliefs upon. Take for example the Marine’s own study on the subject, going on now for a few years, but attacked because, as Mabus said, negative attitudes towards women on the part of those overseeing the research had served to “almost [presuppose] the outcome.” How he justified the validity of that statement, particularly considering that the second senior officer of the command was, herself, a woman, I don’t understand, but he made it clear that he would take no countenance to the Marines’ objections to women serving in combat and publicly dismissed the Corps’ multi-year, multi-million dollar study.
The Marines, however, aren’t the first to study the effects of coed training. Notably, the issue of coed training has been studied before by the Pentagon. In 1997, the Defense Department assembled a bipartisan panel to examine the implications of gender-integrated enlisted training. At the time, the panel concluded that the coed approach used in Army, Navy, and Air Force recruit training resulted in “less discipline, less unit cohesion, and more distraction from the training programs.”
The Marines practice excruciatingly high standards to maintain the quality of troops they have fielded, both male and female, for two and a half centuries. Reports like the 1997 Defense Department study and the recent studies by the Marines are making many in the Marine Corps speculative that these high standards will be maintained in the future, a ramification that could endanger future Marines. One such Marine brave enough to comment on this is Marine General John Kelly.
by CNS News, “Marine Gen. John Kelly, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, said at a Pentagon press briefing on Friday that he believes that future generals will face “great pressure” to lower the standards for women in combat in order to get more women into combat roles.“My greatest fear—and we see this happen a lot over the 45 years I’ve been in the Armed Forces–is right now they’re saying we are not going to change any standards,” said Kelly. “There will be great pressure, whether it’s 12 months from now, four years from now, because the question will be asked whether we’ve let women into these other roles, why aren’t they staying in those other roles?“Why aren’t they advancing as infantry people—persons–I guess? Why aren’t they becoming, you know, more senior?” he said. “And the answer is–I think will be–if we don’t change standards, it will be very, very difficult to have any numbers, any real numbers, come into the infantry, or the Rangers or the Seals, but that’s their business.”So,” said Kelly, “I think it will be the pressure for not probably the generals that are here now, but for the generals to come, and admirals, to lower standards because that’s the only way it’ll work in the way that I hear some people, particularly, the agenda-driven people here in Washington–or in the land–the way they want it to work.”
Females are only segregated in their billeting. So they are not in the platoon bays or rooms with the males (unless there is a class going in there…then there are also Drill Sergeants around).Other than this, they are integrated into the squads and platoons and function just as the males do. There are no differences in treatment of expectations. This is exactly the same way it will be once they are out in the Army (and the same way that the other services operate outside of training).
While he is optimistic that the Marines will do fine, I fail to see how this improves the quality of troops that come from basic training or mitigates the perceived problems, where they exist, of female integration. The Marine Corps’ recruit training is also lauded for it’s near perfection in training basically training warriors, as noted in his book On Combat, (Army) Lt. Col Dave Grossman compared its training to the equivalent of many nation’s Special Forces and ranks the basic Marines above that of the average American servicemen. Speaking from the point of view of a retired Army Ranger, I took that statement with a point of pride. What I don’t see being communicated is the understanding that Marine Corps boot camp isn’t designed to make anything other than basically trained Marines. That means that in the three months they are there, they don’t even time to learn basic skills like tactics and most of the weapons systems they will use. It is about taking immature people and through a process mastered by the Marines over a period of more than a century, making them that. Mixing men and women add nothing to this process, and I will argue, take away from it greatly.
Mark Oakley’s explanation that females are only segregated in their billeting, so they don’t share living spaces. He mentions that they do join the men for classes there and that there are Drill Sergeants always around. For the Marines, I simply can’t see how this wouldn’t fundamentally change the way training takes place. For example, so very much training happens in the squad bays, as far as uniforms, inspections, and even drill. Hell, even cleaning the place becomes a semi-religious ritual of team building. Given that, I don’t see how each and every time a task has to be performed, the women have to run all the way down to get the necessary training or team building. There is also the matter of discipline in the squad bays. While few people who haven’t read What is the logic behind making military boot camps so intensive?
will understand what is meant by the term “quarterdecking” as miserable as the practice is to endure, it serves the necessary purpose of instilling discipline, perhaps far better than any other single incentive device I have ever seen. It happens mostly in the barracks, in front of the others. You suffer together. It’s part of it. The fact that they have separate barracks, to me, loses something very insular to the boot camp experience and, in the process of driving cohesion… destroys it.
This isn’t to say they should ever live together by any means. One drill instructor reporting on the basis of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak on the subject said, “The thing is how much more integrated can we get? We already train with females. What do they want? Them to live in the same squad bay? Cause that ain’t going to happen.”
There is also the question of supervision. While perhaps the Army does have training that lends itself to recruits being watched all the time, I can say quite easily that on the nights in hikes, I’d be surprised if more than one incident didn’t occur between recruits in the bushes. The deserts at Camp Pendleton are wide enough for privacy and the those swamps at Parris Island aren’t any different. 100% isolation isn’t realistic in those situations, nor 100% of the time is oversight by the few Drill Instructors available. Slip past the firewatch and you can get a lot of things done. Up to this point, I’ve never seen what incentive there was to this sort of sneaking around. To paraphrase Freud, sex is a motivator.
To make it clear, these men and women, the Drill Instructors are tasked with supervision of upwards of eighty people and there are normally no more than three of them. If this were an elementary school classroom, that would be a teacher/student ratio over the legal limit in many parts of the United States, but in the Marines, this ration of leaders to recruits is responsible for the troops safety and instruction, all the while participating in grueling exercises, and often under arms. This isn’t to mention being over them literally 24 hours a day. At some point, among some individuals, a Drill Instructor’s oversight can’t be directed at all times. That is to say, it is 0% acceptable for a recruit to get pregnant with six weeks left of training, at the beginning of a year of training. That simply doesn’t happen in today’s Marine Corps, but the experiences I’ve had in the fleet,
I’m sure it will happen soon under Secretary Mabus’ Marine Corps.
That said, Mabus’ directive on integrating boot camp wasn’t sent until after the deadline for infantry integration, a plan which was part of the works for some time. There was no planning done, or consideration made toward changing its entry-level training. Yet the memo dated January 1 indicated that plans to revamp the training system for the all of Marine Corps boot camp needed to be made by no later than January the 15th. A Marine official said called Mabus’ 15-day deadline to come up with a plan to integrate Marine boot camp “an aggressive timeframe.”
It’s called aggressive because, besides the logical impediments to training, numerous others considerations must be made.
“It requires a look at … how much personnel to bring, how many drill instructors to bring, the leadership and support cadre that comes along with that,” the Marine said. “The barracks in San Diego are H-shaped, for example, so you can see everything that’s going on. If women are living in them, do you black out the windows or make an entire building that’s theirs? Do you do a floor for men and a floor for women?”
To say the least, giving only a 15 day time frame to redesign the most crucial training element of any Marine’s career, of all Marine’s careers, seems reckless. To be frank, I’m very concerned that Mabus is risking the efficacy of the world’s premier fighting force for a personal experiment on subjective morality. More so than this, I feel there is no evidence to suggest that this is good for the Marine Corps, in fact it stands against a great deal of evidence to the contrary. I don’t even see how this definitively improves the prospects for women and their advancement in the military. Quite honestly, I see no one truly benefiting from this decision to integrate the boot camps besides Ray Mabus himself, and his own political aspirations. Of course, my disappointment in the standing SECNAV is nothing compared to others, such as California Representative Duncan Hunter, a former Marine veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, who has already called for Mabus’ resignation in September and said very clearly that “a greater threat to the Marine Corps than ISIS.”
As I said, I was cautiously optimistic when he decided to make the changes for the infantry, but relatively speaking with this new decision to reform boot camp, an institution in no need of reformation, I’m elated at the decision to bring in women to the infantry. Frankly, I can’t believe that an idea this bad would be considered good by anyone who puts the needs of people who will one day see combat first. That goes for the women, too.
What I can say is that I don’t feel that the way in which it happened was correct. Blindly ignoring the studies and experience of the world’s most lethal organization in the area they excel above all others was a failure. More so, I don’t think this had much to do with what is best for the Marines, or the military as a whole, but of political expediency to further the political aims of a few politicians. The manner in which the rug was pulled from beneath the Marines was one that will leave lasting conflict within the service. Instead of welcoming the women into their new roles, they will forced into it artificially. The manner in which this decision was made, quite honestly, was too soon, for all the wrong reasons, and a disservice most of all, to the women who will be first to enter this role.
Thanks for reading. Everything I write is independent research, meaning that I am supported completely by fan and follower assistance. If you enjoyed this post and would like to see more like it, follow Jon’s Deep Thoughts, and if you would like to support JDT, please visit my support page here: Support Jon Davis creating A Military Sci-Fi Novel, Articles, and Essays.