The U.S. Marine Corp school that produces infantry combat officers will allow female students to enroll for the first time this year.
The Military Times reports a limited number of women will be allowed to participate in the Infantry Officer Course in Quantico, Virginia. That’s where Marine officers are groomed to serve in direct combat roles and to lead troops into battle.
“We are in the process now of soliciting female volunteers,” says Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Corps’ assistant commandant.
Enlisted women also will have an opportunity to attend infantry training. Marine officials are developing plans to assign female Marines to the Corpsâ€™ Infantry Training Battalions, which fall under the Schools of the Infantry.
The Marine newspaper calls it a “a monumental – if controversial – move for the Marine Corps, which until now barred female Marines from the program and required instead that they attend other courses aimed at preparing them for assignments in support roles such as logistics, personnel administration and aircraft maintenance, among others.”
The Corps has been studying this issue for more than a year. Starting in May, women will be considered for about 400 positions within six types of battalions: Amphibious assault; artillery; combat assault; combat engineer; low-altitude air defense; tank.
Even more controversial, is the plan to establish “gender-neutral” physical fitness standards. Many military men think that will mean softening the standards, as they say has happened with females in civilian fire and police departments. But the Marine Corps has said that won’t happen.
The Corps says women wanting to serve in ground combat units “will be given the shot to do so only if they can keep pace with their male counterparts.”
Marine Corps Marine Cpl. Lakin Booker from the Female Examination Team sights in during a security halt in Marjah, Afghanistan. Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher M. Carroll
By LINDA THOMAS