By Lance Cpl. Chelsea Flowers
The Marine Corps plans to send the first group of female Marines through the previously male-only Infantry Officers Course at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., this year. The change is part of a research initiative to determine what additional combat-related jobs could be available for women in the Corps.
In a February ruling, the Pentagon lifted some restrictions on positions women can hold, putting them closer to the front lines at the lower battalion level, not just the combat brigade level.
This recent change takes the issue one step further for females Marines. The women to attend infantry training will be on a volunteer basis and it is unclear how many will respond to the call, according to an article by independently-owned Marine Corps Times.
Enlisted female Marines will have the opportunity to attend infantry training as well and plans are being developed to assign them to Infantry Training Battalions.
It is unclear what future roles the Corps has for the women who complete infantry training, but Marine Corps officials plan to make an announcement in the near future, according to the same article.
In addition to opening up infantry training, the Corps is developing new gender-neutral fitness tests that will mirror combat-essential duties. The tests will be the same for both sexes, unlike previous tests. This will ensure women wishing to enter infantry training will be eligible only if they can keep up with the male infantry Marines.
“There is a plan to evaluate males and females against those standards and potentially a downstream plan to put women through other training that actually will be informed by our experience with infantry training,” Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford said in a Marine Corps Times interview.
While this move by Marine Corps officials is a controversial one, it comes at the tail end of a more than year-long study of the issue. The change doesn’t mean women will be entering infantry ranks any time in the near future, the Corps is simply experimenting to see what results come from women receiving the training and being assigned to infantry battalions.