It's official: The Marine Corps is ready to give female Marines the title of infantrymen.
The Marines announced today in an administrative message that those female Marines who have already passed enlisted infantry training and relevant job schools for combat arms positions are eligible to receive a ground combat arms military occupational specialty.
The announcement comes shortly after the Corps submitted its plan for integration of combat arms jobs to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter in keeping with a military-wide mandate.
This means that at least 240 female Marines, who made their way through the Corps' Infantry Training Battalion near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, over the last two years as part of a gender integration study, are now eligible for an infantry MOS and may request a lateral move into a ground combat unit, Marine officials said.
To date, no female officers have passed infantry officers training.
The number of eligible female Marines may be larger; a Marine Corps spokesman, Capt. Philip Kulczewski, said officials were awaiting an official figure from Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs.
"Our Marines earned this. They volunteered, worked hard, completed the training, and earned these MOSs," the Marine commandant, Gen. Robert B. Neller, said in a statement. "Given the Secretary of Defense's decision last month, we now have the authority to award those qualified Marines the additional MOS, and we'll continue to keep faith with them. For Marines who are eligible and interested, they can now request to serve in those previously closed jobs."
According to the announcement, Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs will grant the infantry titles as additional military occupational specialties for those who passed the training. Female Marines interested in moving into a combat field can then submit their request to Headquarters Marine Corps. However, those lateral moves will be processed only once the Marines' complete plan for integration is approved, officials said.
This move marks a significant development for the Marine Corps, the most male-dominated of all the military services with only 7 percent women. The Corps did request exceptions to the integration order, citing an extensive infantry experiment that showed ground combat teams including women were less lethal and more prone to injury than all-male teams. But when Carter announced he would overrule the request, Neller filmed a short message ordering the Corps to "move out" in support of the mandate.
"The Commandant and I are extremely proud of those Marines who participated during the two-year research effort in order to help the Marine Corps continue its ongoing gender integration efforts," Marine Corps Sergeant Major Ronald L. Green said in a statement. "Their dedication has helped us develop a well-planned and responsible integration process that ensures the Marine Corps remains prepared to answer our nation's call, while reinforcing our standards and core values."
-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.