On March 12, 2014, then-Marine
Corps Commandant Gen James F.
Amos issued an instruction directing
the review and expressing his confidence in female Marines’ ability “to
serve in greater capacity” than previously allowed, based on their “
outstanding, and in many cases heroic,
performance” during 12 years of
combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But Amos added: “As we contin-
ue to broaden opportunities for
female Marines, we will not lower
standards and we will not sacrifice
the high combat readiness that
America demands of her Marines.”
If research concludes that “we
should not open a particular MOS
or occupational field, we will pursue
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who
will review the commandant’s rec-
ommendations before they go to
Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter,
has said his presumption is that all
positions will be opened to women.
Because the Navy and Air Force
have opened most of their jobs,
except for their Special Operations
Forces, Panetta’s order mainly
affects the Army and Marine Corps, which have most of
the currently closed ground units that engage in direct
combat with the enemy.
The process initiated by Panetta is the culmination of
decades of evolution in which prohibition of women
serving on Navy warships, flying combat aircraft or in
specialties that deploy in direct support of ground combat units were repealed.
Advocates for servicewomen argued that the last
restriction repealed by Panetta, the “combat exclusion
rule” that barred women from assignment to ground
combat units at the battalion level and below, ignored the
reality of the danger faced by support personnel in wars
without defined front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq.
About 300,000 servicewomen deployed for those
two wars, hundreds were wounded, at least 130 were
killed and dozens won combat decorations for bravery.
But the prospect of women serving in the units that
engage in direct combat with the enemy has drawn
strong opposition from many veterans and Soldiers
and Marines currently serving in those units.
To prepare for the commandant’s challenging deci-
sion, the Marine Corps has conducted an extensive, mul-
tiphase process to determine which, if any, of the closed
positions it will open to women. A major part of that
process was a year-long trial in which a mixed-gender
unit, modeled on a Marine Expeditionary Unit’s battalion
landing team, was formed.
The unit, called the Ground Combat Element
Integrated Task Force, had about 600 Marines, half of
whom were male and female volunteers who would
operate side by side in all the basic ground combat
jobs. The rest were trained Marines assigned as leaders,
instructors and support personnel.
The Integrated Task Force process started in June 2014
with the recruitment and screening of the volunteers, followed by individual instruction at various Marine schools
and then unit-level training at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
But the process to determine what additional jobs
female Marines can fill started in 2012, following the
repeal of the rule barring women in support billets
from co-locating with ground combat units, said Capt
Maureen Krebs, a Marine Corps spokeswoman.
The Marines started assigning women in support
jobs, such as communications and logistics, to artillery,
tank, light armor reconnaissance and Air Naval
Gunfire Liaison Company battalions. The first assignments went to female officers and staff noncommis-
Cpl Jacklyn Dean, mortar man, Mortar Platoon, Weapons Company, Ground
Combat Element Integrated Task Force (GCEITF), secures an M252 81mm
medium-weight mortar during a Marine Corps Operational Test and Evaluation
Activity assessment at Range 107, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center
Twentynine Palms, Calif., April 24. From October to July, the GCEITF conducted individual and collective-level skills training in designated ground combat
arms occupational specialties in order to facilitate the standards-based
assessment of the physical performance of Marines in a simulated operating
environment performing specific ground combat arms tasks.