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Navy Secretary Visits Camp Pendleton To Sell Marines On Women In Combat

The secretary told more than 1,200 Marines and sailors that the decision is final. Marine Corps leaders had sought to keep certain infantry and combat jobs closed to women.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is telling rank-and-file Marines to get used to having all combat positions open to women who qualify.

The secretary told more than 1,200 Marines and sailors at Camp Pendleton Tuesday that the decision is final and there's no turning back. He likened full inclusion of women to the integration of blacks in the 1940s and, more recently, gays and lesbians, calling it a positive development that will strengthen the Marines.

"In the late '40s, when African-Americans were integrated into the Marine Corps, there was a concern — and it was voiced vocally and loudly — that it was going to ruin the Marine Corps, that it was going to lower standards, that it was going to change the culture," Mabus said. "We are stronger because we have Marines of color."

Mabus assured the audience repeatedly that standards won't be lowered. He said that female integration will be a gradual process. Boot camp will remain gender-divided for now. As females apply and qualify for ground combat jobs, they will be put into units alongside men, he said.

He also reminded the group of mostly entry-level men that women have served in combat for years, and more than 160 females had lost their lives fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

RELATED: Women Make History At Camp Pendleton, Train For Combat Roles

Marine Corps leaders had sought to keep certain infantry and combat jobs closed to women, citing studies showing combined-gender units are not as effective as male-only units. Defense Secretary Ash Carter overruled them in December, ordering all positions open to women.

Camp Pendleton is the third major Marine base that Mabus has visited to discuss December's edict.

More than 200 female Marines have already completed ground combat training as part of an experiment to see if they could handle the battle-hardened roles. They passed the test, they’re qualified, but so far, few have applied.

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