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As part of its endeavor to open up career opportunities for female servicemembers, the Pentagon is set to announce that select female Marine volunteers will be allowed to attend the Infantry Officers Course in Quantico, Virginia and other combat training courses.  Graduates from the Officers Course go on to lead units in frontline combat, and women had been heretofore barred from serving.

"We are in the process right now of soliciting volunteers," Dunford told the Times for a story published Wednesday.

Enlisted women also will have a chance to take infantry training, Dunford told the Times, which reported that it wasn't yet clear what jobs would be assigned to women who complete the training. Marine Corps officials planned to reveal details "in the coming days," the Times reported.

Earlier this year, CNN's Barbara Starr reported that the Pentagon was planning to open up nearly 14,000 jobs to military women - jobs that would place them closer to the front lines of combat.

Some of the newly opened jobs were to include specialties such as tank or artillery mechanic, missile launcher crew members and field surgeons in forward deployed brigade combat teams. However, women still would not be permitted in frontline jobs directly involved in combat such as infantry units or counterterrorism sniper teams.

Smartly I think, the Marine Corps is adapting their training regimen so as to mirror real-world physical needs that all recruits would have to perform.  So instead of 'gender-normed' physical tests (fodder for opponents to women in combat), for instance all recruits would have to be able to prove they could move an M240 machine gun into position or escort a wounded comrade from the battlefield.

Aside from a major bit of progress on the civil rights front, this serves a critical national security need.  Female Marines & in other services have already been serving in frontline combat in Afghanistan in many of the roles listed above, as well as the lauded 'Female Engagement Teams' that serve with combat Marines in Helmand & Kandahar Province.  FETs doing the hard work of counterinsurgency by engaging the women of Afghanistan, opening up more than half Afghanistan's population for intel gathering & rapport building. Now these brave Marines have the opportunity for formal training & advancement equal to their male counterparts.

Unlike Don't Ask Don't Tell or Desegregation, the opening of all opportunities to women in the military will be slow, arduous, and incremental.  Its already been going on.  Female servicemembers already fly helicopter gunships & F-22 stealth fighters.  They treat wounded soldiers on the battlefield. Serve aboard submarines.  Graduate from the service academies.  Progress all made in the last 30 years.

Why is it that a woman can fly an A-10 Warthog but not drive an M-1 tank?  Why can she serve in the FBI's elite Hostage Rescue Team but not the 75th Ranger Regiment?  Why can she volunteer to crash her F-16 into a hijacked airliner, but not lead a flanking assault on an insurgent sniper? These are questions that have always mystified me.  But thankfully, they are increasingly mystifying to people in power.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I have a friend who drives a tank for the Marines (7+ / 0-)

    and I've heard the phrase 'all marines are riflemen', that is, not matter what assignment or specialty any given marine may have, he or she is also a skilled and effective soldier when functioning in the role of infantry.

    I think this change will help maintain that ethos.

    "All things are not equally true. It is time to face reality." -Al Gore

    by Geek of all trades on Thu Apr 19, 2012 at 10:00:15 AM PDT

  •  There Are Plenty Of Women I Would Follow Into (6+ / 0-)

    battle. Actually, there are plenty of women who wouldn't want me in their combat unit.

    When I was an avionic tech on Looking Glass back in the mid '70's, most of the armed gaurds were women. And these gaurds operated with shoot-to-kill authority 24-7, 365.

    I asked one of the male gaurds how come there were so many women gaurds. He told me that during qualifying test for these positions, the women were better than the men at both identifying an actual threat, and then terminating the threat.

    I once taught one of my girlfriends how to box like a boxer. Let's just say I never repeated this "mistake"...

    I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Republican Party.

    by OnlyWords on Thu Apr 19, 2012 at 10:01:50 AM PDT

  •  I've seen what light infantry (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zett, oortdust, VClib, cynndara

    has to carry into battle, and light is not accurate. They carry anywhere from 100 to 150 lbs on their back while marching several miles.

    I think for areas like mechanized infantry and tanks, the pure requirement for physical strength is much less. I've also been assigned to mech infantry units, and that's not something a good percentage of women couldn't do. (i.e. I mean to say they could do it but my use of negatives might be confusing).

    I'm not sure more than a handful of women could do light infantry. I know as a 200 lb man I certainly would be a failure at it, even back when I was in great shape.

    I'm not against qualified women trying it out, as I have seen a few women who I believe would be able to do it, and thus it is difficult to come up with a good reason why they shouldn't get the chance.

    •  Just one point. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OnlyWords, BlackSheep1, cynndara, PeterHug

      Audie Murphy was 5-5, 110 lbs. He was rejected by the Paratroopers, Marines, and Navy as being too short and underweight.

      He went on to receive the Medal of Honor, DSC, two Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars for Valor and three Purple Hearts. The most highly decorated GI of World War II.

      Follow Me on Twitter!!/TarantinoDork

      by TarantinoDork on Thu Apr 19, 2012 at 10:48:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  different time (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        they didn't carry the gear necessarily way back then that folks pack on now.

        I've already noted that there are likely to be the rare women who could handle the physical requirements, and thus I support them being allowed to try, so not sure why citing one person from 70 years ago is illustrative of much other than that there are exceptions to every rule...which I, again, agreed to in my original post.

        The reality remains, IMO a majority of men couldn't handle the physical requirements of light infantry in today's military based on what I've observed, and neither could the vast majority of women.

        Mech infantry/tank on the other hand, I think has a much lower barrier of entry to women because they drive where they are going, they aren't carrying much more than an assault pack and a weapon if they aren't in a vehicle, so all that is required there is fitness, not strength...and that's in the purview of most men and most women.

        There is a difference.

      •  two comments on this USMC change of policy: (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cynndara, PeterHug, gsenski, chimene, BachFan

        1. About stinkin' time they recognize that in modern warfare the "front line" is as irregular and ill-defined as can be -- so teach all servicemembers not just to expect to be in it but to adapt, overcome, and thrive despite it.

        2. Audie Murphy is the penultimate example that it ain't the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog; that Texas farmboy might not have been the size of Ted Nugent or Arnold Schwarzenegger, but in the real-world nastiness he was many times more effective than either of them could dream of being.

        LBJ & Lady Bird, Sully Sullenberger, Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, Drew Brees: Texas is No Bush League! -7.50,-5.59

        by BlackSheep1 on Thu Apr 19, 2012 at 11:17:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Marine Lt. General Victor H. Krulak, ret. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        PeterHug, BachFan

        Was nicknamed "Brute" as a 5'4'' 120lb plebe at Annapolis and embraced the nickname with passion, like everything else he did in life. General Krulak was the most influential Marine of his generation and served in WWII, winning the Navy Cross at the battle of Choiseul Island, as well as Korea, and Vietnam. He would have been named Commandant has he not been such a critic of how LBJ was managing the Vietnam War.  He is the author of the classic "First to Fight" a history of his beloved Marines.

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Thu Apr 19, 2012 at 12:00:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Women can outcompete men in extreme endurance (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cynndara, PeterHug

      events.   Most sporting events are designed for men, but when it comes to real long distance events like ultramarathons women start to outcompete men.

      Women also tend to be slightly better shots.  

      •  not about extreme endurance (0+ / 0-)

        its about raw strength. This isn't about extreme cardiovascular ability or about the ability to maintain a pace for a long time, it's about the ability to hump 140 pounds several miles, and that takes raw strength.

        I don't know why the idea that men are physically stronger than women is something that's being opposed so.

      •  ok just read your link (0+ / 0-)

        it doesn't say at all what you purported it to say.

        That;s not cool.

  •  About fucking time. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cynndara, PeterHug, chimene, BachFan

    I've been on this forever. Our military has been sexist about this to a disgusting degree, yet people are always pretending the troops are equal.

    A woman can be strong enough, smart enough, perceptive enough, and iron-willed enough to be a front-lines fighter - and she will be denied only because she's a woman. I believe that is the dictionary definition of sexism.

    Set the bars where you want them. And if a woman meets the requirements, denying her is the act of a fool.

    Intelligently-written posts on various news sites from serving military always comment on how this restriction is stupid.

    And then there are the few but loud neanderthal replies from commentators who either A) don't understand how logic works or B) are disgusting, sexist pigs.

  •  But...but women have this monthly "problem"! (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cynndara, PeterHug, VClib, chimene, BachFan

    Some years ago, Newt Gingrich used that pitch.

    My retired Air Force father said, "See! See! Women can't serve in combat!"

    I pointed out to him that menstration--that's what it's called, Dad--could potentially be messy, but it's not debilitating. A woman with her period can pull a trigger just fine, and she's not going to pop up in the middle of a firefight and yell, "Hey, guys, stop a minute, I have to change my tampon!" any more than a male soldier with the trots is going to call for a latrine break. You do your job, you clean up afterward.

    My dad then asked me if I'd like to live a a foxhole for weeks at a time--dirty, using a latrine, no showers, no blankets--and I said, "Of course not. But that's the wrong question. The right questin is not would I like to do that--no sane human being would--but would I be willing to do that if it was necessary. And the answer to that is yes."

    Oh, but women are protected from harm now!

    This was during the horrific mess in the Balkans. I pointed out to Dad that most women, other than in countries like ours, aren't protected from harm, "harm" including being bombed, shot, raped, having your kids slaughtered before your eyes, getting hauled off to a military brothel to be raped again twenty times a day....all things happening in Bosnia...and Darfur....and throughout history.  I said that, IMHO, most women in that situation would welcome guns and the training to use them.

    That finally shut him up.

    Freedom has two enemies: Those who want to control everyone around them...and those who feel no need to control themselves.

    by Sirenus on Thu Apr 19, 2012 at 12:16:52 PM PDT

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