For first time, Marines will gen­der-in­te­grate train­ing pla­toons at Par­ris Is­land

The Beaufort Gazette (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY WADE LIV­INGSTON wliv­[email protected]­land­packet.com

For the first time in its his­tory, the Marine Corps will train men and women in the same bar­racks dur­ing boot camp, ac­cord­ing to re­ports.

Marine Corps Re­cruit De­pot Par­ris Is­land — the only ba­sic-train­ing site for women in the Corps — will place one fe­male pla­toon into the pre­vi­ously all-male 3rd Re­cruit Train­ing Bat­tal­ion dur­ing boot camp, ac­cord­ing to a de­pot news re­lease.

In­dia Com­pany of 3rd Bat­tal­ion will be home to the fe­male pla­toon, which will con­sist of about 50 fe­male trainees, the re­lease said. The com­pany, which will also have five male pla­toons — bring­ing the unit’s size to 300 to­tal trainees — is sched­uled to start its train­ing cy­cle Sat­ur­day.

ABC News broke the story early Fri­day af­ter­noon and re­ported that the move is not per­ma­nent. Ac­cord­ing to ABC, a Marine spokesper­son said the Corps will as­sess how the pla­toon per­forms “in this model” as it con­tin­u­ally eval­u­ates re­cruit train­ing.

The fe­male trainees will be led by fe­male drill in­struc­tors at the pla­toon level, the re­lease said, though the com­pany-level staff is gen­der-in­te­grated.

ABC re­ported the fe­male re­cruits will live in the bar­racks with male trainees.

“I see this as the elim­i­na­tion of a big bar­rier to in­clu­sion of women in the Marine Corps,” said ret. Lt. Col. Kate Ger­mano, who once com­manded Par­ris Is­land’s all-fe­male 4th Re­cruit Train­ing Bat­tal­ion.

“My hope is that hav­ing women and men train side by side will elim­i­nate a lot of the as­sump­tions about what men and women are ca­pa­ble of do­ing,” Ger­mano con­tin­ued.

While the other ser­vice branches have moved to more quickly in­te­grate train­ing, the Marine Corps has lagged be­hind. It’s a po­si­tion Ger­mano — who’s au­thored a book on the sub­ject — gets asked about fre­quently through her work as a

con­sul­tant.

“I don’t think a lot of se­nior folks in the Marine Corps un­der­stand that it’s been viewed as a neg­a­tive,” Ger­mano said, ex­press­ing hope that the Par­ris-Is­land move can help change that per­cep­tion.

In re­cent years — about a cen­tury since Opha May John­son be­came the first fe­male Marine in 1918 — dozens of women have bro­ken sev­eral bar­ri­ers in the Corps.

In Jan­uary 2017, four fe­male Marines be­came the first to grad­u­ate Par­ris Is­land with in­fantry con- tracts; one of those Marines was Maria Daume, who, a few months later, be­came the first woman to join the in­fantry “through the tra­di­tional en­try-level train­ing process, ... made avail­able to women just a half-year ear­lier,” Voice of Amer­ica re­ported.

In Sep­tem­ber 2017, a fe­male Marine of­fi­cer be­came the first woman to grad­u­ate the Corps’ In­fantry Of­fi­cers Course, ac­cord­ing to the Marine Corps Times.

That of­fi­cer, First Lt. Ma­rina A. Hierl, be­came in Au­gust 2018 the first woman to take com­mand of and lead an in­fantry pla­toon, the Times re­ported.

And the first women en­tered the Corps’ West Coast Marine Com­bat Train­ing Bat­tal­ion in March 2018, and trained along­side men, ac­cord­ing to the Times.

Those firsts were only pos­si­ble af­ter then-De­fense Sec­re­tary Ash­ton Carter opened all mil­i­tary oc­cu­pa­tions to women in Jan­uary 2016, ac­cord­ing to the De­part­ment of De­fense, and af­ter Carter ap­proved the Corps’ plan to in­te­grate Marine jobs in March 2017, ac­cord­ing to the Times.

In Au­gust, fe­male re­cruits were the first to re­ceive the Corps’ new dress blues, which more closely re­sem­bles the dress uni­form worn by men, ac­cord­ing to the Times.

Roughly 20,000 re­cruits train each year on Par­ris Is­land, ac­cord­ing to the de­pot’s web­site.

The de­pot’s 4th Re­cruit Train­ing Bat­tal­ion grad­u­ates around 3,400 women each year, ac­cord­ing to the unit’s web­site.

Women be­gan train­ing on Par­ris Is­land in 1949, ac­cord­ing to the Corps.

Par­ris Is­land’s “Pro­gram of In­struc­tion” dur­ing boot camp will not change in in­te­grated In­dia Com­pany, the de­pot’s news re­lease said.

“This train­ing cy­cle ... will pro­vide (Par­ris Is­land) staff a unique op­por­tu­nity to as­sess out­comes, achieve­ments and chal­lenges in train­ing, lo­gis­tics and re­source im­pacts of this com­pany train­ing model,” the re­lease said.

Train­ing cy­cles last ap­prox­i­mately three months.

Fol­low-up ques­tions sent by The Is­land Packet and The Beau­fort Gazette to Marine Corps Com­bat De­vel­op­ment Com­mand — the over­ar­ch­ing unit un­der which Par­ris Is­land falls— were not im­me­di­ately an­swered by Corps of­fi­cials. Those ques­tions asked, among oth­ers, when and if In­dia Com­pany re­cruits were in­formed of the in­te­grated-pla­toon model, and if there were plans to ex­pand the model else­where.

“While the Marine Corps has al­ways been slow to adopt the more so­cial-change as­pects of group dy­nam­ics, once the change has been an­nounced we’ve al­ways driven hard to­ward it,” Ger­mano said.

She added that she hopes to one day see fe­male re­cruits train at Marine Corps Re­cruit De­pot San Diego, the Corps’ only other — and male-only — boot-camp site.

Ger­mano said she was op­ti­mistic about the an­nounce­ment at Par­ris Is­land.

“I can’t imag­ine that they’ll turn back af­ter this,” she said.

STAFF SGT. GRE­GORY THOMAS MCRD Par­ris Is­land

Pfc. Maria Daume per­forms a com­bat ex­er­cise at Marine Corps Re­cruit De­pot Par­ris Is­land.

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