A group of 40 female Marines are about to start training at a combat school reserved for non-infantry Marines aboard Camp Pendleton, California, a first in Marine Corps history.

The group of women will embark on a 29-day course, known as Marine Combat Training Battalion, or MCT, in infantry training and tactics alongside male Marines. The new female students are expected to check in today, according to Training Command.

MCT is a condensed replica of the School of Infantry that produces 0311 riflemen. After completion of recruit training, Marines not holding an infantry job attend MCT to maintain the Corps’ mantra of “every Marine a rifleman.”

The other of the two MCT schools is located on Camp Geiger at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Gender integration at MCT isn’t a new concept — male and female Marines have been training together at Camp Lejeune for some time now. With all female recruits trained at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina, attending MCT just one state away made sense.

But as the Corps continues to push gender integration across combat arms and recruit training, including the West Coast in that effort has become necessary.

Boot camp at MCRD San Diego is still all male, and until now, males attending follow on training wound up in all-male MCT courses at Camp Pendleton.

One of the oft repeated criticisms of the Corps’ attempts at gender integration has been the lack of exposure for young male Marines to female colleagues and female leadership early in training. That isolation, some believe, has led to a perception by some junior male Marines that females cannot meet the same standards.

Slow and steady strides at basic training and MCT have been made, to include some integrated training with male and female Marines at Parris Island, but none of these changes have migrated west — until now.

“The Marines will be fully integrated at the platoon and squad level with their male counterparts as part of Lima Company,” Marine Corps Training Command said.

Besides the integration, no other changes are being made to the MCT program, Marine officials say.

The Corps expects to train 1,700 women there annually once the integration at MCT-West is complete.

Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.

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