Lt. Gen. David Berger, the nominee to be the next top Marine, told lawmakers during his confirmation hearing that there may be another gender-integrated boot camp class in 2020.
The first ever gender-integrated Marine boot camp class graduated on March 29, aboard the Parris Island, South Carolina recruit depot.
However, Marine officials have been murky about a re-occurrence of the gender integration experiment while routinely expounding that the company’s integration was solely done out of efficiency because few female Marines were slated for January’s recruit training cycle.
But Berger told senators on Tuesday that India company’s integration “went great” and that he discussed with Gen. Robert B. Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, that “we have to look at this perhaps for next year."
The decision to put the female unit with the others this winter was driven by logistics and money.
Berger noted that Neller agreed, and that it’s an issue the two would needed to further discuss.
“But the class that entered in January and graduated a few weeks ago did very well,” Berger told senators.
A platoon of roughly 50 female recruits joined five other Male platoons in January as the first ever gender-integrated Marine recruit training company.
But little changed in terms of training, as Marines train by platoon. Despite the media fanfare of the perceived historic moment, actual gender-integration at the training level was limited.
“The program of instruction that we use in the Marine Corps, we didn't change. We just changed where they were billeted,” Berger said during his confirmation hearing.
Female recruits lived in the same building as their male peers but had their own squad bay and drill instructors.
Brig. Gen. James Glynn, commander of the Parris Island depot, told the Associated Press that the male and female recruits of the integrated company saw each other a tad more when they lined up and marched to chow and when they formed up for the day’s fitness routine.
But the Parris Island commander appeared skeptical that the experiment would ever take place again.
“The jury is still out on that,” Glynn told AP. “As conditions permit in the future, we could pursue it.” But, he also said, “No one looked at this and said we don’t want to do it again.”
Berger explained to lawmakers Tuesday that like every company that goes through recruit training, the Corps analyzed metrics from the training cycle. For India company he said, nothing was really out of the norm.
“The statistics, Berger said, “for this company were the same as every other company. A few areas higher, a few areas lower, but it went great.”
The Corps has come under considerable pressure and scrutiny from veteran’s advocacy groups for being the only service without a coed boot camp.
Advocates for women service members routinely argue that gender segregation in recruit training molds false perceptions of lowered standards for women in boot camp that fosters further gender discrimination and disrespect.
The Corps contends that Marines train by platoons and has been hesitant about changing that model.
“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 2018. “So I am not considering having men and women live together in an open squad bay.”