Marines to mix men & women in combat training in order to fight 'gender inequality'

© US Navy

For the first time, the US Marines are taking a serious look at training women for combat alongside their male counterparts. After accusations of gender inequality in the service, some say this is a step in the right direction.

On Tuesday, the Marines announced that they are specifically eyeing Southern California's Camp Pendleton for their female recruits to join in combat training. As of right now, only male Marines complete combat training there, while women are only placed on the East Coast.

The Corps is also looking to bring females and males together for boot camp training at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County, which must be completed before any type of combat training. Currently, female recruits only attend boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina, while male recruits either go there or to Southern California, according to officials, the Associated Press reported.

The proposals must be approved by senior Marine officers, and officials are not authorized to discuss the matter publicly because a final decision has not been made.

General Glenn Waters, who serves as assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, said Tuesday that all options are on the table. The final decisions will depend on analysis, including logistics, cost benefits and personnel.

"If we're going to change the culture of the Marine Corps, we need to change how we're organized. Our recruit training is a component of that," Walters said, according to the AP. He added that leaders in the Marines want to go after any"unconscious bias" that may exist in the Corps.

Congress has persistently criticized the Corps for being the only service that separates men and women for portions of their service. Out of all US armed military services, only the Corps allows half of its male recruits to undergo initial training without female colleagues.

Congress is specifically going after the Corps due to the fact that every single female recruit goes through boot camp at Parris Island and nowhere else. They continue to remain separated from their male counterparts for portions of the joint training. Congress has demanded that the Corps address this issue, which may be the reason reports have emerged on possible changes, the AP reported.

Marines have argued that the separation from women is needed in order for them to reach the level of physicality to train with the men. They also have argued that the separation gives the women the support they need during the early weeks of boot camp.

The Corps was recently plagued by a nude photo-sharing scandal involving sexually explicit photos of female Marines on social media and other websites. The photos included crude, violent and derogatory comments about the women in the photos.

So far, 33 Marines have faced some type of punishment, or administrative action in the ongoing investigation, Major Iain Pedden, the Marine Corps' head of military justice, said Tuesday, AP reported. A task force led by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service is currently looking into the incidents.

Some Marine Corps officials are suggesting that the separation of the sexes could be contributing to many of the disciplinary problems the Marines have faced as of late. They feel that giving the men more exposure to the women could help the men to better understand their counterparts and mend the gap in their relations, AP reported.

A task force with the Marines has been reviewing various options and changes to the controversial separation practices for several months.

Female recruits currently account for only 8.4 percent of the Marine Corps, the smallest proportion across the US armed services.

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