For the first time in Marine Corps history, a group of 40 female Marines will begin a fully integrated combat training course alongside male students at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California.
The females Marines arrived Tuesday for the 29-day Marine Combat Training, previously only open to males on the West Coast, and be integrated at the platoon and squad level, Capt. Joshua Pena told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Women previously trained on the East Coast at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, but a new Marine Corps policy decided all recruits from states west of the Mississippi River would train at Camp Pendleton.
“This initiative is part of a Marine Corps effort to enhance the entry-level training program for all Marines and to better reflect how the Marine Corps is structured in the operating forces,” Pena said.
The Marine Corps started planning for female Marines about a year ago, modifying housing, medical services, and bathrooms, Pena told the Orange County Register. Ultimately, roughly 1,700 women will train at the base and they will be held to the same standards.
The Marine Corps boot camp is segregated. Male recruits train on the West Coast, while women train at Parris Island in South Carolina. The separation has drawn criticism from advocates and some policymakers who fear it sets the stage for bias, sexual harassment, and gender inequality.
“The Marine Corps will continue to send women to Parris Island,” Pena told the San Diego Union-Tribune, referring to boot camp. “The current number that we recruit is supportable at Parris Island. If we reach a number above what we’re recruiting now, that’ll be on the table, to open up San Diego.”
Defense Secretary Ash Carter lifted gender-based restrictions on military service in 2016, paving the way for women to serve alongside men in all capacities.
Cover image: U.S. Marine Pfc. Kira Kozik, the first female Marine student to check in to School of Infantry – West, stands in line to turn in her medical records at Camp Pendleton, March 6, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Kerstin Roberts)