The all-female platoon currently undergoing recruit training in a previously all-male battalion at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., may not be the last, according to the Marine Corps' most senior enlisted leader.
Speaking Thursday at a forum on maritime priorities in Washington, D.C., Sgt. Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green said the service doesn't "do things as a one-time deal" and is assessing the integration of an all-female platoon within one of the battalion's companies to determine whether it is a model the Corps should continue, rather than training female recruits in a single battalion, as is current protocol.
"The assessment is to see how we can more closely align integration," Green said. But completely integrating platoons, with men training side-by-side with women, is not likely to occur anytime soon, he added. "What we ask individuals to do at recruit training is a lot more physical and challenging than any other service. We all know that. Who we recruit, we must take them and transform them into Marines. We want to give every individual the greatest opportunity for success," Green said at a forum hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute at the Center for International and Strategic Studies.
A platoon of 50 female Marine recruits began training Jan. 5 in 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, marking the first time women have trained outside the all-female 4th Recruit Training Battalion. The service decided to integrate the women as a single platoon in a traditionally male company rather than make them wait until later in the year, when there would be enough women to activate 4th Recruit Training Battalion.
Women now make up 8.9 percent of Marine recruits, Green said. Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller has said he'd like to grow the Marine Corps to 10 percent female. Marine officials say they are increasing outreach to potential female recruits. But Green said Thursday that a challenge to recruiting both men and women has been high schools nationwide that block military recruiters from approaching students. The 2001 No Child Left Behind Act required public high schools to give military recruiters as much access to campuses as is given to any other recruiter.
But some school districts have blocked access to military personnel, Green said. "It's difficult to get into some schools. I'd like to see a more open-door process but, in some schools, there's no entry point. We are protecting the people in these high schools, and there are people in these high schools who want to serve. The door shouldn't be slammed shut and closed," he said.