Female Marine recruits navigate an obstacle at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., on Feb. 27. All female volunteers for Infantry Training Battalion at Camp Geiger, N.C., will come from Parris Island. The first volunteers start Sept. 24. (Scott Olson / Getty Images)
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The women that the Marine Corps recruits to voluntarily attend enlisted infantry training on an experimental basis will come exclusively from boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., a Marine official said.
The first female volunteers for the Infantry Training Battalion at Camp Geiger, N.C., are scheduled to begin Tuesday, according to service officials. And like their male counterparts, they are coming straight out of recruit training.
The move is the latest step in the Corps’ ongoing, controversial research into what additional ground combat jobs should be opened to female Marines.
New female lieutenants have been allowed to enroll in the Corps’ grueling Infantry Officer Course for more than a year, but only six have reported for duty. Five failed the initial Combat Endurance Test; the sixth woman made it through the test but was dropped a week later after sustaining stress fractures in her leg.
Marine Corps Times first reported in August on the plan to to open infantry training to enlisted women this fall. It is required training for all enlisted Marines joining the infantry, and teaches personnel to employ weapons, patrol and prepare for missions, among other tasks. The course includes 59 training days, and is overseen by the School of Infantry, which has schoolhouses at both Camp Geiger and Camp Pendleton, Calif. All enlisted Marines not attending infantry training instead attend SOI’s Marine Combat Training, which is shorter and less arduous than ITB.
Marine officials have released few specifics about the plan to integrate women at ITB so far. Female recruits at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island will receive information about the service’s ongoing experiment and be asked several times if they would like to volunteer, said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to sensitivity about the issue.
The official said that male and female students will be housed in the same facilities, but have separate sleeping areas, bathrooms and showers. Female participants will be “assessed using the requirements contained with the current Infantry Training and Readiness Manual,” the official said, meaning the women at ITB should face the same requirements to graduate.
“They are not gender-specific,” the official said of the requirements. “There are no plans to alter the existing standards.”
Marine officials have not disclosed how many women they would like to attend ITB as part of the experiment. Unlike IOC, it does not have a grueling pass-or-fail endurance course at its outset, but it does call for students to spend days at a time in the field, sleeping in tents or fighting positions.
ITB included a six-mile run, but dropped that requirement last year as the curriculum was overhauled. The Marine official said the combat conditioning program now calls for hikes that progressively increase from five kilometers, to 10, to 15, to 20.