Marines mull adding women to combat training in Southern California: report

The Marine Corps is reportedly considering allowing women to attend its combat training program in Southern California.

If approved by senior leadership, the change could be made as soon as next spring and would mark the first step in a broader plan to give male Marines more time to work with female Marines during training, The Associated Press reported, citing unidentified Marine Corps officials.

The Marines are also discussing allowing women to attend boot camp in California, according to the AP.

{mosads}Right now, female Marines go through boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., and combat training at Camp Geiger, N.C.

Male Marines, on the other hand, can attend boot camp at Parris Island or San Diego, and combat training at Camp Geiger or Camp Pendleton, Calif.

But even at the East Coast programs, portions of the training are segregated by gender. The Marine Corps is the only service to separate recruits by gender for parts of training and the only service to have male-only training camps.

Some, including many lawmakers, fault that segregation as a reason for persistent sexual assault and harassment allegations plaguing the Marines, including the nude photo-sharing scandal that rocked the service earlier this year.

In the past, the Marines have argued the separation is necessary to allow women to become more physically competitive before joining the men, as well as to provide women the support they may need when they first start training since they are such a small percentage of the service. Just 8.4 percent of Marines are women.

But now, according to the AP, Marines officials are acknowledging that training recruits with no women in their units could be contributing to some of the issues they’ve had.

In testifying to Congress in the wake of the photo-sharing scandal, Marines Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said the service was re-examining its training program.

“We are taking a very long look at how we do recruit training right now,” Neller said in March. “We are looking at the entire way that we do recruit training, from how we educate and train our drill instructors to how we do the entire program of instruction for men and women.”

Still, Neller took exception with calling the training segregated, saying a “good portion” is integrated.

“A good portion of their training, as we do it now at Parris Island where all our women get trained, they do things with male recruits, the swim tank, the rifle range, the crucible, the field training, even now their final fitness exams,” he said. “So to say that we are segregated I do not believe is a fair statement, but we do do it differently than everybody else.”

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