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Navy and Marine Officials Discuss Integrating Women Into More Roles

A female Marine participates in Infantry training in 2013. US Marine Corps photo

A female Marine participates in Infantry training in 2013. US Marine Corps photo

The Marine Corps is using a social science approach to introduce women into expanded roles in the service, a plans officer in the Corps’ force innovation office told a conference of military reporters and editors Friday in Washington, D.C.

“[Because] we are very interested in morale,” Lt. Col. Michael Samarov said, the idea is to prove to other members of a squad that “the new member can do the job as well or better than the others. I think that will settle the issue” of placing women in positions and with units that had been previously closed to them.

When Defense Secretary Leon Panetta first ended the ground-combat exclusion policy, there were generational differences in the Marine Corps over accepting women into such positions. That attitude has shifted because Marine Corps alumni and more senior Marines still serving see “the standard [of performance] is not changed. Why would you want a less-qualified candidate?”

After the Panetta announcement, the Defense Department told all the services and Special Operations Command to review the standards they set for each occupation and ensure that they were gender-neutral.

The Marine Corps showed all “here’s the no-kidding hard data [on how the candidates were performing]. It won them over.”

Samarov said when the Marine Corps initially studied the issue, “we were focused on the physical.” Over time that has changed to include other social indicators among applicants. “Maturity and smarts matter in combat.”

He added that the Marine Corps believes that 30 percent of the women already serving would be interested in applying for the positions, but the Corps recognizes, “we don’t have a lot of female Marines. It’s something that we are working on” in recruiting and commissioning.

Women make up 14 percent of those in all the services. Slightly less than 7 percent of the Marine Corps is female.

Cmdr. Renee Squier, head of the office of women’s policy for the chief of naval personnel, said the congressional reaction to the Navy’s for female enlisted and junior officers to serve on ballistic missile submarines has been very cooperative.

“The goal is to have 20 percent” of the crew female. The Navy’s report to Capitol Hill will be sent later this fall and the additional women could begin to be assigned by the end of the year.

Squier said the Navy is still studying how women could serve in the smaller attack submarines. “We are studying where it makes sense.”

She said members of Congress recognize the “deliberate, thoughtful approach” the service has taken in how it implements these changes. “We have 20 years of experience” in opening positions to women—starting with serving in surface combatants and operating combat aircraft. It starts by assigning senior officers first, then junior officers and senior noncommissioned officers, followed by junior enlisted.

The services and Special Operations Command have until the start of 2016 to open all positions and occupations to women or provide the rationale to the defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for keeping a position closed.

  • gunnerv1

    I think it’s a big fricken mistake, but then again, that’s my personal opinion, glad I’m retired (’86) so that I don’t have to put up with this trash. (my Pu**y hurts).

  • Diogenes

    I was in service when women entered the ranks as gender equals. Couldn’t be in combat arms, but all the support specialties opened up. Worse thing that ever happened to military service. Young troopers normally focused on the mission were suddenly focused on the new and exciting opportunities offered for closing the gender gap. My son says there were six women aboard his cutter. He enjoyed his sexual experiences with all of them. The military used to be about protecting the nation. For the last forty years it is about being a giant laboratory for social experiments, yet today’s young Marines call their female counterparts “mattresses.” No doubt the brass is glad to have a “women’s policy chief” to explain how that happens. Such typical behavior doesn’t sound like respect to me, but like gunnerv1 that’s just the personal opinion of an old man that still believes you don’t eat the seed corn.

  • ADM64

    Any further discussion should start with a review of how things have gone to date, in terms of cost-benefits and process. Standards have been lowered. Special equipment, two track medical requirements exist, separate quarters are required. Pregnancy and consensual sexual activity have caused huge problems, quite apart from the issue of assault. The very small 2-3% of women who can perform physically to the same level as a man, do so only at the level of an average man, and then decline more rapidly with age. They are more vulnerable to injury during both training and operations. A wealth of data supports all of these conclusions. It also supports the conclusion that in any choice between equality of opportunity and military effectiveness, the armed forces and our political leaders have repeatedly chosen the former and not the latter. Instead, we have a damn the torpedoes approach, accepting uncritically that a coed force is good and simply working to make it larger. Meanwhile, over the last 20 years we haven’t exactly won any of our wars.

  • OldNavy207

    There is one small problem with our current leadership’s thinking on this issue: it’s devoid of common sense. Today’s modern thinking is that women and men are really exactly alike–women are simply small men with high voices. What is completely ignored is biology. There is this pesky little problem with our built-in drive to procreate that our new age thinkers can’t seem to come to grips with. When the inevitable problems do arise in this area, the response seems to be that we can punish our men and women into submission, and that sooner or later we will all get the message and start behaving like brothers and sisters. Can anyone tell me in history where this approach has succeeded?

  • rickaroo

    It’s all about the continuing pussification of the military. The liberals won’t be satisfied until women control all aspects of government and the military.

  • OLDNAVYVET

    “WHY?”

  • NavySubNuke

    Considering that women retain at about half the rate that men do I wonder how much this policy will cost in terms of extra nubs being brought in and trained just to leave after their first enlistment/initial commitment. While everyone is entitled to leave at that point the Navy needs a certain percentage to stay in and rise to higher levels – as that percentage drops there is a measurable cost in how many extra E1s and O1s have to be brought in to ensure a deep enough pool for E7/9/9 and O5/6/7+.

  • James B.

    What the military needs to define, and openly publish, is its criteria for evaluating success in every military specialty. We need to have a national conversation about what we are trying to get our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines to do, and these standards should include at least these two points:

    1) What we want them to do? This should be as specific as each service, branch and specialty can define.
    2) How long we want them to do it? What do we expect the career path to be?

    Winnowing down our requirements with these two criteria would eliminate unqualified personnel, while maximizing the use of those we have.

  • Dennis

    Women just don’t belong in combat. I don’t care how big strong and ugly they are. An American male was raised to protect our women. It’s natural. That would hinder a combat unit with women in it. I’m a Marine veteran of three wars (Vietnam, Ist Gulf and Bosnia) and there’s no way I would send a woman into harms way if I could send a man (who would have a better chance of coming out alive). And if a wounded Marine the size of a linebacker needed to be pulled out of range, do you think a 100 pound woman could do it?

  • James B.

    Here is the problem: “The goal is to have 20 percent.” The moment you start setting quotas, I mean “goals,” standards fall. The only goal should be to field the most capable military forces, irrespective of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.