Navy Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus wants more female Marines women in the Marine Corps uniforms, a goal the service's recruiting command officials with Marine Corps Recruiting Command say they were working toward before the call to action.

Mabus announced a plan to boost the sea service's enlisted female recruitment efforts to at least 25 percent of all accessions Mabus reiterated the department's increased focus on female recruitment during a mid-May speech at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The move, he said, will help attract, recruit and retain women in communities in which they are underrepresented Diversifying the Navy and Marine Corps will make the services more robust, he argued.

"[We] need more women in the Navy and Marine Corps; not simply to have more women, but because a more diverse force is a stronger force," Mabus told an auditorium of midshipmen.

Boosting female accessions to 25 percent would dramatically change the look of the Corps. Female Marines currently make up only about 7 percent of the Corps.

It's a challenge Marine Corps Recruiting Command the Corps' recruiting command has attempted to address in a variety of ways in recent years, said spokesman Master Sgt. Bryce Piper, a MCRC spokesman. One example is working with groups like the Women's Basketball Coaches Association. Another is sending two million direct mail packages to female high school seniors, Piper said.

"[The] Marine Corps has already demonstrated a commitment to making concerted efforts to attract, mentor and retain the most talented men and women who bring a diversity of background, culture and skill in service to our great nation," he said in an emailed statement.

A female officer brochure exists and an enlistment version is in the works, according to Piper.

And while the Corps' television advertisement campaigns have not implicitly targeted women, they do feature female Marines. The first was "The Climb," which aired in 2001.

Piper also noted that fFemale Marines are featured in print and online advertisements as well as in support material provided to recruiters. In 2014, MCRC launched a series of "success story" videos on YouTube featuring female officers. They currently have brochures geared for women looking to earn a commission, and MCRC is developing something similar on the enlisted side, Piper said.

But the Corps lacks a gender-specific goal when it comes to recruitment. Though Mabus was explicit in his call for more female recruits, Piper said direction on how to achieve that objective has yet to come down from Headquarters Marine Corps.

Of the Corps' nearly 3,900 recruiters, only 166 are women, Piper saidaccording to Piper. And officials do not intentionally pair women recruiters female recruiters with potential female poolees recruits, he said.

"To us, Marines are Marines," Piper said.

Mabus' push to recruit more women comes just months before Pentagon officials have to determine what additional jobs they'll open to female troops. interest in welcoming more women into the two services should not come as a surprise. Top Defense Department officials have made diversifying the U.S. military by gender a priority in recent months. Pentagon officials are working against a September deadline to develop gender-neutral standards for all billets within each service branch. At a congressional hearing in March, leaders indicated they were on track to meet the target date.

It was then that Mabus first raised the problem of recruiting women for the Navy and Marine Corps. He told the House Armed Services Committee that his department struggled to attract women. Females make up about 15 percent of the military and, according to a Defense Department report prepared in June 2014, just 7.8 percent of active duty Marines.

"One of the reasons we're having problems is that we do not have enough flexibility in how we manage our force," Mabus told lawmakers.

Women increasingly enjoy more career opportunities within the Corps, though it remains to be seen if that will drive up recruitment. The service opened up 371 billets in combat units previously closed to women in 2012 and then another 11 military occupational specialties to female Marines in 2014.

The Corps is also wrapping up a monthslong experiment involving male and female Marine volunteers , testing for In March of that year, then-Commandant Gen. Jim Amos created an integrated task force to test job-specific training and readiness standards. help determine the best the Corps' gender-neutral standards for combat roles. That group of men and women currently is undergoing testing aboard Camp Pendleton, California.

Mabus made it clear he wants to see that work continue. Women comprise the majority of college graduates in the general population and the Navy Department needs well-educated officers, he said.

Change may come gradually, but it is coming, Mabus said.

"By the time you reach your second or third tour, your squadron, ship or unit will be much more demographically representative of the nation you serve," he said at the academy told the midshipmen. "And that is critically important both to the quality of our all-volunteer force, but also important to fulfilling the principles of the democracy we defend."

Staff writer Leo Shane III contributed to this report.

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