The Corps is the only branch of service that has not fully integrated male and females together at recruit training. Could that be about to change?
ABC News first reported Friday that a female platoon will integrate with male platoons aboard the recruit depot at Parris Island, South Carolina.
“On January 5, 2019, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island will start their training cycle with one female platoon and five male platoons,” the Marine Corps said in a statement.
A Marine official said that the change was not permanent, but that the Corps “will certainly look at how the company performs in this model as we continually evaluate how we make Marines.”
The Corps decided to “incorporate the 50 female recruits into the historically all-male battalion because the recruiting classes are typically much smaller in the winter months,” according to the Marine Corps statement.
Female drill instructors will still lead the female recruits. Female recruits will live in the barracks with their male counterparts, but in different squad bays.
“This training cycle of about 300 recruits will provide Recruit Depot staff a unique opportunity to assess outcomes, achievements and challenges in training, logistics and resource impacts of this company training model,” the Marine Corps said.
The Corps has two recruit depots, and only Parris Island has partially integrated female Marines with males during boot camp. The recruit depot at San Diego is still all male, though there are some female drill instructors aboard the installation.
The Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller was previously reluctant to further gender integration at boot camp.
“Our drill instructors stay with their recruits 24 hours a day, seven days a week the entire time they are there,” Neller told reporters at a televised Pentagon briefing in May. “So I am not considering having men and women live together in an open squad bay.”
Before the Corps’ announcement Friday, female Marines had only trained side-by-side with their male counterparts at boot camp during various training events like swim qualifications, the rifle range and classroom instructions during the final phase of recruit training.
Vocal women’s advocacy groups have long contended that separating males and females in recruit training builds resentment and a false perception that female Marines have it easier in training.
That issue, they argue, can result in male Marines disrespecting female superiors and leaders.
“What truly disadvantages women is training that separates them from their fellow Marines from the outset,” retired Navy Capt. Lory Manning, director of government operations at the Service Women’s Action Network, previously told Marine Corps Times. “The Marines should fully integrate enlisted boot camp from the first day so all new Marines soak up the Marine Corps ethos together and learn, together, that the unit bond includes both men and women."
The top Marine attempted to address some of those concerns by including female drill instructors at the all-male recruit depot in San Diego.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.