The Marine Corps will not lower physical standards to allow women to join combat jobs, such as infantry, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus vowed Tuesday.
"I will never lower standards," Mabus told Marines and sailors at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. "Let me repeat that: Standards will not be lowered for any group! Standards may be changed as circumstances in the world change, but they'll be changed for everybody."
After speaking about the Marine Corps' plan to integrate women into military occupational specialties that had been restricted to men, one Marine asked if female Marines would need to pass the same advanced courses as men to join the infantry.
"Same standards; doesn't matter," Mabus replied. "I mean, they're Marines."
The Marine Corps recently announced that male and female Marines must meet the same physical standards to be assigned to load-bearing units, such as infantry battalions, combat engineer companies and Raider companies, said Yvonne Carlock, a spokeswoman for Manpower and Reserve Affairs.
Previously, the Marine Corps had separate assignment policies for men and women, Carlock told Marine Corps Times on Tuesday. The administrative message does not apply to lateral moves into ground combat MOSs.
"The Secretary of Defense announced the opening of all occupations and units to all service members and published his guidance in a Dec. 3, 2015, memo to the secretaries of the military departments," Carlock said in an email. "MARADMIN 193/16 directs the application of gender neutral unit assignment criteria to all non-ground combat arms MOS Marines being screened for assignment to load bearing units."
Separately, MARDMIN 197/16 announced that a mobile training team will visit Marine Corps bases to explain the service's gender integration plan.
"This is not sensitivity training," said Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Philip Kulczewski. "The focus will be on the details of the implementation plan and how it affects all Marines' best practices."
Mabus has been determined to make sure that women can serve in combat jobs, going as far as to criticize the Marine Corps’ own gender-integration study, which found that teams of male and female Marines did not perform as well as male-only teams and that women in load-bearing units are more likely to get injured than men.
He told National Public Radio in September that the female Marines who took part in the Marine Corps’ gender-integration experiment were not strong enough to carry heavy loads and that “there should have been a higher bar to cross to get into the experiment.”
Senators later lambasted Mabus for implying that the women who participated in the Marine Corps study were not up to the task.
“Secretary Mabus, this would have been a lot easier if you had not called in the press immediately and debunked what many of us view was a legitimate study without even reading it,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said at the Feb. 2 hearing.
Over the next few weeks, Mabus will review a plan that he ordered the Marine Corps to submit that would make some job and MOS titles gender neutral, said Mabus' spokesman, Capt. Patrick McNally.
A Navy official told Marine Corps Times in January that the Marine Corps could keep iconic titles like "infantryman," "rifleman" or "midshipman."
"The idea is not to go in there and change the name when 'man' is incorporated as part of the term," the official said at the time. "... But when the word 'man' appears as a separate word ... they want that name to be changed."