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Women in infantry ‘not a foregone conclusion'

Jan. 30, 2013 - 06:07PM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 30, 2013 - 06:07PM  |  
First Lt. Kathryne B. Schilling coaches a woman as she prepares to shoot a pistol. No decision has been made on whether women will be allowed to join the Marine Corps' infantry, reconnaissance and special operations units, the service's commandant said in a recent letter.
First Lt. Kathryne B. Schilling coaches a woman as she prepares to shoot a pistol. No decision has been made on whether women will be allowed to join the Marine Corps' infantry, reconnaissance and special operations units, the service's commandant said in a recent letter. ()
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Where must the Marine Corps focus its research as officials evaluate which military occupational specialties should be opened to women — and which should remain closed? Send us a letter to the editor.

No decision has been made on whether women will be allowed to join the Marine Corps' infantry, reconnaissance and special operations units, the service's commandant said in a recent letter to his fellow general officers.

The letter, obtained by Marine Corps Times, was distributed Jan. 24, the same day Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced the Pentagon's decision to lift the 1994 Combat Exclusion Policy that prevented women from joining the military's ground combat units. In it, Gen. Jim Amos said there are three years to collect the information that will determine which military occupational specialties should be opened to women — and which should remain closed.

Amos, who has been commandant since October 2010, said his successor will make those recommendations to the Pentagon after the research period ends in 2016.

"I believe we have created the conditions for him to provide his best analytically-informed military advice on this critical matter to the civilian leadership, who have the constitutionally-enshrined power of final decision," Amos said in the letter. "I don't know what my successor's recommendation will be, but the end state is not a foregone conclusion, as some have suggested.

"The memorandum agreed to by all the service chiefs specifically states ‘… If we find that the assignment of women to a specific position or occupational specialty is in conflict with stated principles, we will request an exception to policy," Amos wrote.

On Tuesday, Amos told USA Today that some specialties may remain closed if only a small number of women qualify for them.

"If the numbers are so small with regards to qualification, then there very may well be [job fields] that remain closed," Amos said. "Those will be few and far between."

Deploying only one or two female service members in a unit would make it tough for women to succeed in them, Amos acknowledged.

"You want to have assimilation … so our females can mentor one another," he said.

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