Navy Secretary Ray Mabus explained what explained why he was persuaded him to allow men and women male and female Marine recruits to continue training separately at Marine boot camp a month after he ordered Corps leaders to develop a plan to make its entry-level training coed. during parts of basic training after he had ordered that all of boot camp be gender integrated.

"The Marines did a very good job of showing ... some of things that the way it’s done now sets both men and women up for greater success," Mabus told reporters on Tuesday.

In a Jan. 1 memo, Mabus ordered the Marine Corps gave the Marine Corps 15 days to develop come up with a plan to integrate its boot camp and Officer Candidates School., of basic training Mabus met with Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller about two weeks after the memo was released, and Marine Corps Times learned then that the service would continue training its male and female recruits separately. he allowed the Marine Corps to continue with its current accessions process after meeting with Commandant Gen. Robert Neller on Jan. 14. The service will look for potential opportunities for male and female recruits to train together.

Mabus noted on Tuesday that officer candidate school and The Basic School are already fully gender integrated and now the Marine Corps is looking at how to move gender integration earlier into the accessions process.

taking those lessons learned

Mabus spoke Tuesday after a vitriolic Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on opening all combat jobs to women, at which Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, slammed Mabus for initially ordering boot camp to become gender integrated.

Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, left, and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus talk before a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting on Feb. 2, 2016, on Capitol Hill. The committee brought in military leaders to discuss the Army and Marine Corps' approach to gender integration.

Photo Credit: Daniel Woolfolk/Staff

"I've been on this committee for a year and I don't think I've seen a more outrageous or ill-advised order from the service secretary to tell the Marines that they're going to take boot camp — which has been honed and put together for the benefit of the American people over decades — and you're going to order them to give a detailed plan in 15 days?" Sullivan said. "Is that even remotely possible? Why did you issue such an order when nobody on this committee thinks that it was remotely possible to integrate boot camp?"

Sullivan and other lawmakers also sharply criticized Mabus for his comments last year downplaying the Marine Corps’ months-long gender integration study infantry integration test, which found that mixed-gender teams didn't perform as well as were slower and did not shoot as well as all-male teams and that female Marines were more likely to be injured.

The day after the Marine study was released, Mabus told National Public Radio the gender integration experiment was flawed, in part because the female Marines who took part were not suited to march while carrying heavy loads.

"For the women that volunteered, probably there should have been a higher bar to cross to get into the experiment," Mabus said in the Sept. 11 interview.

During At a Tuesday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., took Mabus to task for saying the female Marines who took part in the integration test were not the service’s best.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, listens to testimony during Tuesday's hearing on women in combat.

Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

"In fact, tThese women were top-caliber Marines, self-selected and chosen to participate based on their aptitude and physical strength," McCain said during Tuesday’s hearing on opening all combat jobs to women. "I hope that Secretary Mabus and others who have spoken ill of these women will repudiate their comments."

Mabus praised all of the Marines who took part in the integration experiment, but he said the study "focused on the average performance of female Marines rather than individual abilities."

"Averages don't tell the abilities and performance of an individual Marine," Mabus said.  "There were — and are — capable women who can meet the arduous standards the Marine Corps set for ground combat arms units. We all know the Marines have never been about average."

But McCain faulted Mabus for not going to Twentynine Palms, California, and Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, to observe see the study integration test as it was happening.

"So you, with a straight face, make claims that the Marine study was flawed and biased, even if you didn't go see the study being performed," McCain said.

In his NPR interview, Mabus said there was a problem with the mindset of the Marines who took part in the integration study.

"It started out with a fairly large component of the men thinking 'this is not a good idea,' and 'women will never be able to do this,'" Mabus told NPR. "When you start out with that mindset, you're almost presupposing the outcome."

Lance Cpls. Christopher Aguello, left, and Brittany Holloway, right, secure a light armored vehicle's spare tire at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif.

Photo Credit: Cpl. Paul S. Martinez/Marine Corps

In a tense back-and-forth with Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., during the hearing, Mabus said he was referring to some of the conclusions from the study that were presented to him.

"The Marines that were chosen, the Marines who volunteered — and who I brag on for doing that — they did a great job in terms of establishing standards; however, some of the conclusions that were drawn … that the male Marines in that experiment, most of them had no experience working with women in these occupations — they simply didn't know how to do that."

Cotton pressed Mabus about whether he owes the female Marines who took part in the study an apology for telling NPR "there should have been a higher bar" to cross to participate get into the experiment.

"Senator — and I have the entire interview here, I know exactly what you’re talking about — what I kept talking about was there were no standards for any of these [Marines] when we started out."

Cotton interrupted, saying the female Marines who took part in the study did a better job meeting the service’s physical fitness standards than the male Marine volunteers.

"On the generalized physical fitness test, combat fitness test," Mabus continued. "Nobody had handed me a standard for these ground combat units. Nobody. There were no standards. One of the ways that you ensure that the integration is successful is by training to these very intense physical standards."

After the hearing, Mabus took issue with the notion that he had denigrated the female Marines who participated in the study, saying he was responsible for all the Marine volunteers receiving a meritorious unit citation.

Taking issue with her Republican colleagues, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., asserted that the gender integration study was skewed because some the female Marines who took part were at a disadvantage because they were not trained for combat jobs.

"All that we really know from this study is that groups that have the right experience and training — and more training — did better," Gillibrand said. "We don't actually have data that can be used because these women who were asked to participate did not have the same training and experience as males who have been doing it for a long time."

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller responded that it would be unfair to say the female Marines who took part in the study were not trained.

"But it is fair to say — I will agree with you — that their experience in these [military occupational specialties] MOSs was probably not up to the level of their male counterparts." Neller said. "In every other standard that I can tell, I would say that they were as good, if not better, in overall quality of their service as their male Marine counterparts." Neller said.

The integrated task force experiment found that as mixed gender teams carried heavier loads, fatigue took a toll on female Marines' accuracy, he said.

"Being big, strong and a certain body mass gives you an advantage," Neller said at Tuesday’s hearing. "One of the things that I’ve heard as I’ve gone around and talked to female Marines is: ‘Hey, I’m working out; I’m lifting weights; I’m getting bigger, and I’m outside the height and weight standards. Are you going to change height and weight standards? We’re looking at that right now."

The review, which will also look at the physical fitness and combat fitness tests exams, will be done by July 1, Neller said after the hearing Tuesday’s hearing.

"It's going to be height, weight, PFT, CFT, scoring, gender-neutral [standards]; it's everything," he said. "I want to be fair. I don't want people to be disadvantaged. And at the same time, I want them to be fit."

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