sioned officers to provide a leadership element before
adding junior Marines, Krebs said.
In 2014, those assignments were opened to female
corporals and sergeants and extended to companies.
While those changes were occurring, the Corps
began a more direct test of whether women could serve
in ground combat units, opening the Infantry Officers
Course to female volunteers.
Reflective of the “every Marine a rifleman” philosophy, all Marine officers, male and female, must complete the Basic School to learn the fundamental skills
of leading Marines in ground combat. Similarly, every
enlisted Marine, after boot camp, goes through Marine
Combat Training to learn rudimentary infantry tactics
before they go to schools for their specific MOS.
But officers who want to lead Marines in ground
combat must complete the more demanding Infantry
Officers Course (IOC), and would-be enlisted grunts
go through the grueling Infantry Training Battalion to
earn the 03XX MOS.
The IOC is both physically challenging, requiring
long days in the field carrying heavy loads, and mentally demanding, as the candidates must make difficult
decisions while under stress and physically exhausted.
Although service officials wanted about 90 volunteers for the IOC, they only got 29 female Marines and
none could complete the course, Krebs said.
The Corps then conducted a
similar trial for female enlisted
Marines, sending 350 volunteers to
the Infantry Training Battalion,
with 120 graduating.
It also sent a smaller number of
other female Marines through
training for artillery and tanks.
The women who completed
those ground combat schools were
among the volunteers sent to the
Integrated Task Force, where they
would be tested on their abilities to
perform those tasks for a prolonged period in a formal unit.
“We weren’t just going to throw
them into the unit without having
any of the training for those
MOSs,” Krebs said.
However, some Marines without
the infantry training were assigned
to a mixed-gender “provisional
infantry platoon” in the Integrated
Task Force because, throughout
history, Marines from support
functions have had to fight as riflemen in extreme situations.
After the preliminary training at Camp Lejeune, the
Integrated Task Force went to the Marine Corps Air
Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, Calif., in
March for three months of simulated combat in the
high desert terrain.
It was organized as a reinforced infantry battalion,
with a headquarters company; an infantry company
with two regular platoons and the provisional platoon;
a weapons company with machine gun, mortar and
anti-armor platoons; a mechanized company with
amphibious assault and light armor vehicles and tanks;
an artillery battery; and an engineer platoon.
Female Marines in small numbers were assigned to
each of those units and had to perform the same tasks
as their male counterparts.
The idea behind the Integrated Task Force was to
test whether the mixed-gender units could function as
a team to complete the assigned tasks, Krebs said. That
clearly was a test not just of the physical ability to perform the ground combat missions, but also the impact
of the female Marines on unit cohesion, which is a crucial element of success in combat.
After trials at Twentynine Palms, the task force was
split, with the infantry units going to the Mountain
Warfare Training Center at Bridgeport, Calif., and the
vehicle and tank units to Camp Pendleton, Calif., for
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 20 SEAPOWER / SEPTEMBER 2015
Sgt Courtney G. White, machine gunner, Weapons Company, Ground Combat
Element Integrated Task Force, prepares to descend a 40-foot cliff face during a
pilot Marine Corps Operational Test and Evaluation Activity assessment aboard
Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport, Calif., May 5.