Marine Corps Essay

Marine Corps Essay-83
By Ellen Haring and Megan Mac Kenzie* In August, the Marine Corps completed a two and a half year, million dollar series of studies that examined the possible impacts of integrating women into combat occupations.

By Ellen Haring and Megan Mac Kenzie* In August, the Marine Corps completed a two and a half year, million dollar series of studies that examined the possible impacts of integrating women into combat occupations.

Since the study does not establish minimum operational standards associated with combat tasks and duties, and it fails to measure study participants against job-specific standards, this research does little to further the discussion on gender integration.

The conclusion that all-male groups, on average, performed faster than integrated groups has been taken as proof that there are risks to gender integration and that the inclusion of female Marines would therefore render the Marines less combat effective, regardless of any individual Marines’ qualifications, male or female.

For example, the research indicates that mixed gender teams are better at solving complex problems, have fewer disciplinary problems, and will likely increase the recruiting pool.

The results also showed that non-infantry male Marines outshot infantry trained Marines and that setting valid standards will likely improve overall combat effectiveness.

In a widely circulated editorial, retired Marine General Gregory Newbold stated that the mysterious bonds between men are “what tempers the steel of an infantry unit” and “serves as the basis of its combat power.” The Marine Corps’ study does not demonstrate a clear link between gender integration and a loss of group cohesion.

Participants were asked questions that measured cohesion levels at several stages in the study.When describing the volunteer pool, it was admitted that “in some MOSs there is only a small quantity of males and females …In the extreme cases of the experiment, there were no more than three males (i.e., PIMG) and females (i.e., tanks) completing the entire experimental phase.” The study compares what it considers ‘low density’ and ‘high density’ gender integrated groups to all-male units.There has been significant attention given to the relatively high rates of injury for women in the Marine study.However, the longer reports show that “when fitness is considered, female injury rates are similar/the same as male injury rates” and that “a stricter physical screening tool would have eliminated all the female Marines who sustained injury and were dropped during ITB” (infantry initial entry training).After gaining unprecedented access to over 380 pages of this research, we found that the primary study was inherently flawed and that the limited information the Marines released hid a myriad of problems and weaknesses associated with the design, small volunteer pool, and lack of generalizability of the findings.Significantly, the unclassified yet previously unreleased research documents indicate that women do not negatively impact unit cohesion, that the study sought to measure the impacts of integration in the absence of established combat standards, that female volunteers in the study had no operating force experience in ground combat units, and that better physical screening would have all but eliminated the rates of injury for women.They also concluded “perhaps the single-most important result of this almost three year process” has been “to essentially deconstruct many collective ground combat arms tasks to identify what individual tasks and standards an individual Marine must achieve …to be a fully contributing member of that unit.” Although the Marines had clear directives from DOD and acknowledged the limitations of their current standards for infantry, their studies did not focus on establishing quantifiable job-specific performance standards.Instead, their main research effort, the Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force (GCEITF) had as its objective “to evaluate the physical performance of individual Marine volunteers in the execution of individual and collective tasks in an operational environment” and to “estimate the effect of gender integration.” The problem with this objective was that the Marines were seeking to evaluate the physical performance of Marines in the absence of quantifiable job-specific standards.When the Secretary of Defense rescinded the combat exclusion policy in 2013, the Services were tasked with setting valid occupational standards.The 2014 National Defense Authorization Act further entrenched this, requiring that “outcome-based standards” be developed to “accurately predict performance of actual, regular and recurring duties of a military occupation” and that they be applied to “measure capabilities.” While the Army has some well-defined elite infantry training standards in the form of its Ranger School standards, the Marines have historically assumed that any male should be capable of infantry occupations simply because of his sex.


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