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All Marines to Get 'Unconscious Bias' Training as Women Join Infantry

Female Marine infantry students hike during patrol week near Camp Geiger, N.C., in October 2013. (TYLER L. MAIN/U.S. MARINE CORPS)
Female Marine infantry students hike during patrol week near Camp Geiger, N.C., in October 2013. (TYLER L. MAIN/U.S. MARINE CORPS)

Marines across the Corps will be challenged on their unconscious prejudices and presuppositions as women get the opportunity to become grunts for the first time.

The Marine Corps is rolling out mandatory training for all Marines before the first future female rifleman hits boot camp, aiming to set conditions for a smooth transition and head off cultural resistance.

Mobile training teams will be dispatched to installations across the Corps throughout May and June to offer a two-day seminar to majors and lieutenant colonels, Col. Anne Weinberg, deputy director of the Marine Corps Force Innovation Office, told reporters Thursday. Those officers will then train the Marines under them.

Related story: Marine Corps Begins Moving Female Leaders Into Infantry Units

Topics include unconscious bias, which focuses on how people prejudge others based on factors such as race and gender, and principles of institutional change. The seminar will also walk officers through the elements of the Corps' plan for opening ground combat jobs to women and include vignettes featuring challenges units might encounter.

"You're in the field, you only have this certain amount of space for billeting and you've got three women and six guys. How are you going to billet?" Weinberg said, describing a potential vignette. "Just some of these common sense things that these units probably haven't had to deal with so that ground combat units haven't had to deal with, but we've been dealing with in the rest of the Marine Corps for generations."

The Marine Corps rolled out a "commander's tool kit" of optional online classes on similar topics in late 2014 as the service prepared for the possibility of an integration mandate.

A Center for Naval Analyses survey of 54,000 Marines recently obtained by The Washington Post gives context to the need for training on cultural and institutional resistance as female Marines go infantry. The report found that a significant majority of male Marines at every rank opposed the decision to have women serve in ground combat jobs. The resistance was strongest among male junior officers in the ranks of captain and below, who opposed women in ground combat jobs at a rate of more than 72 percent. At least a third of female Marines at every rank were also opposed to the idea.

The Marine Corps was also the only service branch to request that some combat units remain closed to women, after an extensive study found that teams and squads with female members were slower and less lethal than all-male units. Many, including Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, have criticized the study's findings and the conditions under which it was performed.

"There's no doubt we're leading cultural change. It's not the first time for the Marine Corps, but we like a challenge," said Brig. Gen. James Glynn, director of the Marine Corps' office of communication. "The purpose of the mobile training team is to begin to facilitate the cultural change ... you've got to have the conversation."

Weinberg said the mobile training teams, which will include her and other Marine officers who have participated in the Corps' planning to place women in combat roles, will go to all units, not just the one-third directly affected by combat integration.

"It's a means of getting out an understanding across the force, men and women," she said.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@monster.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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Headlines Women in the Military Marine Corps Combat Forces Military Training Infantry Hope Seck

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