Pfc. Maryabelo Ganal participates with male Marines in a combat conditioning exercise during Marine Combat Training on Feb. 20 at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Marine Corps brass leaders will be briefed on plans to allow enlisted women to participate in infantry training on an experimental basis, a Marine official said. (Scott Olson / Getty Images)
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Marine Corps brass will be briefed soon on the service’s plan to allow enlisted women to participate in infantry training on an experimental basis beginning this fall, a Marine official said Monday.
The addition of women at Infantry Training Battalion comes as the Corps continues research into what additional ground combat jobs may be opened to female Marines. As first reported by Marine Corps Times on Saturday, women will be allowed to volunteer for enlisted infantry training in similar fashion to the way new female lieutenants have been allowed to enroll in the Corps’ grueling Infantry Officer Course for the last year.
“Female Marines will have the opportunity to go through the same infantry training course as their male counterparts,” according to an internal document dated Aug. 16. However, as with the research involving female officers, “female enlisted Marines who successfully complete infantry training as part of this research process will not be assigned infantry as a military occupational specialty and will not be assigned to infantry units.”
Details were still being finalized Monday, said a Marine official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the issue’s sensitivity. It is unclear if any women have volunteered yet for enlisted infantry training. Thus far, it has proven difficult to get female officers to sign up for IOC.
Over the past year, the Corps has given more than 160 female students attending introductory officer training in Quantico, Va., the opportunity to attempt IOC afterward. As of July, only six had reported for duty. None has completed the 13-week course, though one woman did finish its initial Combat Endurance Test only to be dropped later due to stress fractures in her foot.
Infantry Training Battalion is part of the Marine Corps’ School of Infantry, the first stop for all new enlisted Marines once they’ve graduated from boot camp. The service operates two such schools, one at Camp Geiger along the North Carolina coast and one at Camp Pendleton in Southern California.
Enlisted infantry school lasts eight weeks and includes a mix of physical training, classroom work and overnight field exercises that involve live-fire events, according to the Marine Corps’ website. Future grunts learn a host of skills while there, including weapons handling and marksmanship, patrolling and land navigation, and how to spot and react to improvised explosives. They live in tents through some of the program and at times sleep outside in fighting positions.
Unlike IOC, ITB does not include an arduous pass-or-fail endurance test at its outset.
The inclusion of women in infantry training is part of the Marine Corps’ extensive research process stemming from the Defense Department’s historic decision earlier this year to repeal its Direct Combat Exclusion Rule, enacted in 1994. The move opened about 237,000 jobs to women across all of the services, including nearly 54,000 jobs in the Marine Corps. While some troops see it as a step toward equal rights, others contend it will weaken the military’s combat units.
The Corps’ research is expected to last years, and Marine officials have said no women will join infantry units before 2015. Even then, the services will be allowed to ask for exceptions that, if granted by the Pentagon, could keep some jobs closed to women.