Navy Secretary Ray Mabus erased any doubt of his plans to open combat jobs to women Monday, telling an audience in Cleveland that he would not be asking for any exceptions to the Jan. 1 integration mandate -- for the Navy or the infantry-heavy Marine Corps.
Days after the Marine Corps released new data showing men outperformed women in a host of combat-related tasks, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus erased any doubt about his plans to open all jobs in the sea services to female troops — including those in the infantry and Navy SEALs.
"Nobody's asking for an exemption in the Navy. My senior military aide here, Bob Smith, is a SEAL. The SEALs aren't asking for an exemption," he said. "I've been pretty clear, and I've been pretty clear about this for awhile: I'm not going to ask for an exemption for the Marines." [[moved up, GH]]
"I knew about this study, of course, but I don't reach down and say, 'do this kind of study, do that kind of study,'" he said. "That came up from the Marine operating forces."
The commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Joseph Dunford, has been far more reticent about his own opinions regarding women in combat, saying in the past that he wanted to evaluate study data before making a decision. But Mabus plans to have the final say. He told Navy Times earlier this month that the way forward on integrating combat units was "my call." [[Moving down]]
In his address Monday, Mabus was careful, however, to distance himself from the design and the creation of the Marines' infantry experiment that he has criticized as flawed. [[Moved this and the next quote up. GH]]
"I knew about this study of course, but I don't reach down and say, 'do this kind of study, do that kind of study,'" he said. "That came up from the Marine operating forces."
Mabus said the Marine Corps' study pointed to a need for gender-neutral, job-specific standards for each combat specialty. That the average woman couldn't perform some infantry jobs, he said, was irrelevant.
"We're not looking for average," he said. "There were women that met this standard, and a lot of the things there that women fell a little short in can be remedied by two things: training and leadership."
The creation of job entry standards would keep the Marine Corps from losing any of its strength or lethality on the battlefield, Mabus said. He also asserted that a force including women would be a stronger force, because it was more diverse. The Marines' infantry experiment illustrated some ways that men and women act differently, he suggested.
"Women got injured a lot or more than men on duty. Men got injured four times as much as women off duty. So, we've got these knuckleheads who are, 'here, hold my beer and watch this,' " Mabus said. "So, do we keep men from being in the infantry because they get hurt so much off duty? I don't think so."
And Sgt. Maj. Justin LeHew, a Navy Cross recipient and the senior enlisted Marine for the Corps' Training and Education Command, slammed Mabus in a lengthy post on Facebook, calling his comments "counter to the interests of national security and unfair to the women who participated in this study."
The Marine Corps plans to release more data from its women-in-combat study later this month.