All branches of the U.S. military are working toward incorporating women into front-line combat units by 2016. Yesterday, the nation’s first three women to ever complete a combat infantry training course graduated at Camp Lejeune. WHQR’s Katie O’Reilly reports that this kicked off a year’s worth of analysis the Marine Corps will be performing to determine the recommendation they’ll make to secretary of defense Chuck Hagel regarding the future of women’s roles in combat.
Fifteen female and more than 250 male candidates started the grueling, two-month course. Of that class, three women and 221 men graduated before their families and fellow Marines. The Marine Corps is the most physically demanding branch of service and currently has the lowest percentage of women. One female graduate describes how she persevered through live-fire field training and daylong hikes carrying more than eighty pounds of gear.
"One of the biggest things that kept us going was the fact that we were representing more than ourselves. We had to represent the females that are coming behind us, and the females that are already in combat. And are already in situations where they need this training. So I believe we owe this to all the females in the Marine Corps."
Although the women were made to meet the same standards as their male training counterparts, they will not at this time be able to join infantry units. This is according to Colonel Jeffrey Conner, the School of Infantry’s commanding officer.
"It’s necessary to do a very thorough analysis to determine what the conditions would be so that if the decision is made to open that skill set to female Marines, that we don’t inadvertently cause harm to a female Marine, or that we don’t degrade the combat readiness of that unit."
Conner says a huge concern is safety, as incidence of injury is historically higher for female than male Marines. He adds that the Corps does not want to degrade the combat readiness of any of its units.