Marines nominee: Gender-integrated battalion at boot camp 'went great'

Marines nominee: Gender-integrated battalion at boot camp 'went great'

The Marine Corps’s first gender-integrated battalion during boot camp “went great,” and the service will discuss whether to integrate again next year, the general nominated to lead the service said Tuesday.

“It went great,” Lt. Gen. David Berger told the Senate Armed Service Committee. “The program of instruction that we use in the Marine Corps we didn’t change. We just changed where they were billeted. And it all worked out."

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“I talked to the commandant this morning about it and the results of it,” Berger continued. “And what I asked him was that we have to look at this perhaps for next year, and he said, ‘Absolutely.’ So I think it’s a discussion he and I will have and the Marine Corps will have. But the class that entered in January and graduated a few weeks ago did very well.”

Berger, currently the Marines’ deputy commandant for combat development and integration, was answering a question during his confirmation hearing to be the next commandant of the Marine Corps.

The Marine Corps announced in January it would integrate about 50 women into a battalion during boot camp at Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina for the first time. Women previously trained in separate battalions, though some specific activities were integrated with men.

At the time, the Marines billed the change as a one-time move done for efficiency because fewer women than normal signed up for training that cycle. But the service indicated it would be watching to see how the integrated training works.

On Tuesday, Berger said statistics for the battalion were on par for any other battalion.

“We measure the same things in every company that goes through, how well they did physically, how many injuries they had, all those sorts of things,” he said. “The statistics, to answer your question immediately, were the same as every other company, a few areas higher, a few areas lower.”

In the past, the Marines have argued 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.

But some, including lawmakers, have faulted the segregation as a reason for persistent sexual assault and harassment issues plaguing the Marines, such as the nude photo–sharing scandal that rocked the service in 2017.