Last week it was announced that the USMC will be allowing women to attend its infantry training programs, beginning with the Infantry Officers’ Course and later expanding to training opportunities for enlisted women. While this doesn’t mean that female Marines who complete the training would now be allowed into combat roles, it is still a big step, and a smart move by the Marine Corps.
Many people feel at this point that it is inevitable that our military will have full equality of opportunity. This step seems to be an indication that the Marine Corps certainly thinks so. By starting to filter women into infantry training now, the Corps is putting itself in position to be able to implement immediately when that time comes.
More importantly in the short term, it allows the Marines to take the next step in the exploration of lifting the ban on women in combat that has been going on for more than a year. A close look at standards, an assessment of what is truly required in order for combat units to be effective, will be an important step. The Marine Corps Times reports that “new functional fitness tests are being developed to help Marine Corps leaders determine how women and men perform in, and cope with, various combat tasks. The goal is to establish “gender-neutral” physical fitness standards.” Incorporating women into infantry training programs allows the Corps to test and refine these standards in a hands on manner with real men and women, and doing so now, before there is any directive requiring women to be allowed in combat units, gives them time to do this the right way.
I have stated before that I think women should have the same opportunities as men to serve in our military, provided they can meet the necessary standards to ensure the maximum possible safety and effectiveness of our combat forces. It’s great to see the USMC taking serious and responsible steps toward this.