Female infantry Marines will be sleeping in makeshift shelters next to their male counterparts when out in the field and no special accommodation will be offered to them, a Marine Corps official said Thursday.
Marines in the field stay in everything from a large, single room shelter filled with dozens of cots to sleeping under tarps or nothing at all, said Maj. Charles Anklam III, executive officer for 1st Battalion, 8th Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina — the first gender-integrated Marine infantry battalion.
Female Marines have private rooms and bathrooms in their living quarters, and female bathrooms have been added to buildings where Marines work. But female Marines will be expected to share any living spaces with male squad members in the field to keep unit cohesion and replicate battlefield conditions, he said.
"We're not changing our tactical posture or changing how we operate to accommodate the inclusion of female Marines," Anklam said.
The battalion accepted its first three females in early January, marking the first time the Marine Corps has put three enlisted women in a ground combat unit once open only to men. They will serve as a rifleman, machine gunner and mortar Marine.
Anklam said female Marines deployed to conflict zones have shared tents with their male counterparts at times. But this marks the first time female Marines will be doing so during their regular training with their combat unit.
Their entry into the unit was part of efforts to comply with the Pentagon's directive in December 2015 to open all military jobs to women. That decision also formally recognized the thousands of female servicewomen who fought in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, including those who were killed or wounded.
Opponents of the Obama administration's policy change voiced concern about the two genders sharing tents.
"You're going to have sex, you're going to have love, you're going to have relationships, and it's going to overly complicate the command structure," Marine veteran, Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, told the Marine Corps Times.
Another opponent, Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness, said the three women will serve separately within units of men. Small teams traditionally sleep together in tents on deployment but having mixed genders will affect the atmosphere, she added.
"Policy makers should be held accountable for creating conditions that will encourage indiscipline rather than discipline," she said in a statement.