For the first time in Marine Corps history, women will be trained at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.
The Corps’ West Coast recruit depot traditionally has trained enlisted men born west of the Mississippi River, but all women who enlist in the Corps have been shipped to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina.
All boot camp training companies, regardless of which depot they had trained at, had been segregated by gender until 2019, when the Corps started experimenting with gender-integrating boot camp companies at Parris Island, South Carolina.
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And though the Corps will still be allowed to have separate-gender squad bays ― where recruits sleep and shower ― with the passage of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act the rest of training must be fully integrated down to the platoon level.
Between January 2019 and April 2020, the Corps completed nine training cycles that consisted of one all-female platoon and five all-male platoons.
In February the Corps will recreate those integrated companies in San Diego with roughly 60 women forming a platoon of Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, that will train alongside the male recruits, Military.com first reported.
“In an effort to forge Marines of the highest quality, we must give them every opportunity to succeed,” Brig. Gen. Ryan P. Heritage, the commanding general for Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, said in a press release. “This is the first time we are able to give Marines who graduate from MCRD San Diego the same integrated experience that many of their peers at Parris Island have received already.”
“The opportunity and experience these young men and women will get in terms of training and learning from one-another is immeasurably important to prepare all of our Marines for success, and this also will get us one step closer to understanding the facilities and personnel needed to make this a sustained reality,” he added.
Eventually the Corps will have to move beyond gender-integrated companies and integrate boot camp at the platoon level.
That change was mandated in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, giving Parris Island, South Carolina, five years to comply, while San Diego had eight years to fully integrate.
To comply with the law the Corps considered closing both current recruit depots and moving boot camp to a brand-new location.
“Nothing the way we’re organized right now lends itself to integrated recruit training,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said at Defense One’s state of the Marine Corps event in September.
“We have to get to a place where on both coasts or at a third location, or whatever we end up with that every recruit male, female, there’s all there’s male and female around,” he said.
The thought of the Corps leaving South Carolina was met with swift condemnation from state lawmakers, with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham saying on Twitter: “It ain’t gonna happen!”
“If you’re looking to save money — let’s start with cutting those people who think closing Parris Island is a good idea. Anyone in the Navy or Marine Corps thinking about closing Parris Island has limited growth potential,” he added.
In addition to making history with the first female recruits to graduate from boot camp on San Diego, the Corps is on the verge of graduating three female drill instructors from the San Diego drill Instructor course for the first time.
“This course is the same as all other courses because we are taking selected noncommissioned officers and staff noncommissioned officers and bringing them through the pipeline and holding the standard at what it is,” Maj. Lynn Stow, director of the drill instructor school on San Diego, said in a video released on the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.
The Marine Corps has not yet clarified if those drill instructors will be sent to the female platoon at the recruit depot or if they will be integrated with male drill instructors in all-male platoons.
On the officer side, more gender-integration is on the way in the Marine Corp’ infantry.
A new Marine officer is scheduled to graduate from the Corps’ infamous Infantry Officer’s Course on Friday, all while Berger has been calling on more women to join the infantry officer corps.
As of August, 11 women had attempted IOC with only two passing since 2016, when they were first allowed to attend the course.
The Corps not yet clarified if the Marine graduating Friday will go on to any other courses or if the 0302 Marine Corps infantry officer designation will be her only military occupational specialty.
In August the Corps issued a MARADMIN calling on company grade officers who were denied a chance to go to IOC when they were commissioned to laterally move into the infantry officer military occupational specialty.
Since then two women have latterly moved and will attempt IOC starting Jan. 11, 2021, Capt. Sam Stephenson, with the Marine Corps’ Training and Education Command, said Monday.
While the Corps has historically been more hesitant than its sister branches to integrate women at initial training and into infantry jobs, in September Berger said the Corps requires both increased racial and gender diversity to complete its mission.