Over the past nine months, the Marine Corps tested a gender-integrated task force in both Twentynine Palms, Calif. and Camp Lejeune, N.C. in an attempt to gauge what the Marine Corps might look like with women in combat roles.
According to a recent report in the Marine Corps Times, only a small number of women were left by the experiment’s conclusion—two of the roughly two dozen that started—mostly in part because of the physical and mental stress that comes with combat rolls. Both the men and women in the task force also reported a break down in unit cohesion with some voicing a perceived unequal treatment from their peers.
The experiment comes as all branches of the military face a Jan. 1, 2016 deadline to open all combat positions to women—from basic infantry battalions to elite special operations units such as U.S. Navy SEALs. While branches like the Air Force and Navy have relatively small communities where women are currently barred from serving—namely special operations detachments—the U.S. Army and Marine Corps have a host of units and jobs closed to woman. These jobs, known as combat arms, include infantry, artillery and armored divisions.
The gender-integrated Ground Combat Element Task Force served as a snapshot of sorts of what the Marine Corps might look like if women were a staple in combat positions. Each closed position was represented: infantry, artillery and mechanized units, such as tank platoons and light armored reconnaissance detachments, all operated in tandem with one another. The women were spread among them in ratios that would be expected in an integrated Marine Corps, with roughly 90 percent of the branch made up of men.
The nine-month exercise was broken down into two parts. Initially there was a four-month training period, or “work-up,” at Camp Lejeune, followed by a five month “deployment” to the Mojave Desert in Twentynine Palms. Certain elements of the task force also participated in training at Camp Pendleton, and mountain warfare in Bridgeport, Calif. This two semester cycle was common over the past 15 years. During the height of the Iraq War, it was common that Marine units would train for six to eight months and then deploy for a similar amount of time.
Source: The Washington Post | Thomas Gibbons-Neff