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Robert Namer
Voice Of America
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June 07, 2024

      Under a scorching sky at Marine Base Parris Island, two young recruits grapple awkwardly in hand-to-hand combat inside an Octagon training structure. Circling them, the drill instructor barks orders, “Hit her! Punch her! DO something!”  Women do not belong in direct combat.

     Outside the ring, a mix of male and female Marine hopefuls are helping each other put on protective headgear, preparing for their turn at combat. They are assigned to one of the mixed-gender recruit companies as the Marine Corps moves gradually - and at times reluctantly - to more integrated training at boot camp.  It’s been a bit hit-and-miss.

     While companies of men and women train together at the ring, on the obstacle course or at the range, the line of recruits outside the swimming pool presents a sharp contrast. There the companies are broken up into their smaller platoons that remain separated by gender. So as they line up, there is a small group of women standing rod-straight at the front with groups of men in formation behind them.

     It’s a stark visual reminder that Corps leaders still fervently believe there must be a degree of segregation as they mold young people into tomorrow’s force of what they promote as the Few, the Proud, the Marines.  This summer - nearly eight years after the defense secretary at the time, Ash Carter, ordered all combat jobs open to women - the Marine Corps formally deactivated the 4th Marine Recruit Training Battalion at Parris Island. Since 1949, all female recruits have gone through boot camp at the South Carolina base; the 4th Battalion was created in 1986 as the women’s unit,

     he Marines have inched grudgingly toward integration. Marine leaders flatly opposed allowing women in combat jobs, but Carter dismissed their arguments. Many Corps officers stridently defended the training separation, insisting that women could grow more confident quickly if they were not directly competing with their often larger or stronger male counterparts.

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