Pentagon Panel Says Women Should Be Integrated into Marine Platoons as Part of Recruit Training

New U.S. Marines participate in a motivational run
New U.S. Marines with Echo Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, participate in a motivational run at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, June 15, 2023. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob B. Hutchinson)

The Marine Corps should fully integrate women into platoons and institute mixed-gender drill instructor teams at its recruit depots, according to a newly released report by a Pentagon panel focused on women in the military.

The Marine Corps is the only service that is not gender-integrated at the lowest recruit training level, according to the report released Friday, despite efforts by the service over the last several years to desegregate its training units by gender.

After visiting the recruit depots at both San Diego, California, and Parris Island, South Carolina, the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, or DACOWITS, recommended in its report that platoons at those installations include both men and women "to better prepare male and female recruits as they become Marines, to operate within an integrated operational force, and to better align the Marine Corps with its service counterparts."

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The committee also recommended that the Corps integrate mixed-gender drill instructor teams as well, something the other branches are already doing, according to the report.

Currently, the Marine Corps has gender-integrated companies at its training depots, which include separate platoons made up of men and women. The committee argued that those platoons -- where Marines primarily eat, sleep, train, live and learn -- would benefit from integration to normalize inter-gender relationships between Marines before they hit the fleet, where units are integrated anyway.

The committee said that the platoon is the cornerstone of training and serves as the primary learning environment for the 60 to 80 recruits who train in one. At one recruit depot, the committee said that it observed Marines being hindered by the lack of integration, specifically in collective tasks that require teamwork.

Limiting opportunities for the genders to interact with each other affects cohesion and readiness, the committee said. It pointed at physical training as a key component to building teams within the Marine Corps, adding that "gender-integrated training does not cause harm and may actually foster better cohesion." It also said that other branches with fully integrated training have benefited, specifically in better preparing troops for working in their integrated line units.

"To consider training fully integrated, recruits must have an opportunity to interact with opposite-gender peers during these transformational training moments that turn recruits into Marines," the committee report said. "With fully integrated platoons, recruits would participate in all training events as an integrated team, to include training within the squad bay, with the exception of showering and sleeping."

The report recommended that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin should order the Marine Corps to make the change, which would ensure all services are complying with guidelines passed into law as part of the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that mandate the military does "not segregate recruit training by gender."

The committee also argued that gender segregation can cause "unhealthy" perceptions of the opposite gender, including sexism that might carry into the operational force. It said that segregation of training units could promote fear and suspicion of women and reinforce "the stereotype that women need special treatment and protection."

While the Marine Corps has been arguably the slowest service to adopt gender-integration initiatives, it has made progress in getting rid of segregation at higher levels of the training pipeline. Last year, the Marine Corps deactivated the 4th Recruit Training Battalion, a historic formerly women-only training unit at Parris Island.

The Marine Corps did not respond by publication when asked to comment on the recommendations made by DACOWITS.

DACOWITS was established in 1951. It has been at the forefront of several initiatives, to include women taking on different military roles, including combat roles. The report released Friday included dozens of other recommendations for the military overall, like creating a working group focused on women in special operations as well as establishing a "more robust" women's health care directory.

Related: A Historic Female Unit Will Be Deactivated as the Marine Corps Continues Integrating the Force

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