The Marine Corps has awarded a $2 million contract to the University of Pittsburgh to conduct a study on how to best gender-integrate Marine Corps boot camp at the platoon level, according to a Marine Corps press release.

The Marine Corps is the final U.S. service branch to not conduct fully gender-integrated entry level training ― a practice Congress mandated the Corps to end in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

In early 2019 the Corps conducted training with its first gender-integrated company with five all male platoons training side-by-side with one all female platoon. The Corps has used the same model since to train eight more gender-integrated companies.

However much of the training at Marine Corps boot camp is conducted at the platoon level, one that remains completely segregated by gender.

Congress gave the Marine Corps five years to gender-integrate boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, where all female Marine Corps recruits are currently trained.

Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego was given eight years to comply to the new law.

As part of the transition, the Marine Corps planned to commission a study on the best way to integrate training at the platoon level, while maintaining Marine Corps standards and tradition.

The funding will go to the University’s Neuromuscular Research Laboratory and Warrior Human Performance Research Center and is meant to “analyze combinations of gender-integrated training and make recommendations for models that integrate genders to the greatest extent possible while continuing to train Marines to established standards,” the press release said.

“The University of Pittsburgh was chosen as a result of their outstanding proposal and proven track record of producing quality research material,” Capt. Sam Stephenson, a Marine Corps spokesma,m told Marine Corps Times in an email. “They have a solid grasp of the intent of the study and will provide an objective, data-driven assessment of gender integration at Marine Corps Recruit Depots."

Joining the University of Pittsburgh researchers will be representatives from University of South Carolina’s Department of Exercise Science, Insight Policy Research, and the University of Maryland’s Department of Sociology, according to the release.

Training at Parris Island, South Carolina, and San Diego will be studied, along with data collected from entry level training conducted by the other services, the press release said.

Stephenson said data from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard will be included in the study.

“This independent study will provide an assessment of the Marine Corps' approach to gender integration, and be used as a reference and resource for future planning,” the press release said.

“Specifically, it will address the sociological effects to increased gender integration, and consider training models which maintain the same level of discipline, physical fitness, attention to detail, and camaraderie."

The study will take 18 months and include interviews, focus-group surveys, physical performance data, salivary biomarkers and injury surveillance, Bradley Nidnl, director of the Neuromuscular Research Laboratory/Warrior Human Performance Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh, told Marine Corps Times Tuesday in an email.

Stephenson said the Marine Corps will see a final copy of the study by September 2021, but it will take a further six months to go through the peer-review process.

Once the peer-review is completed it will be published in a peer-reviewed journal once it is completed, according to the press release.

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