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First Women Marine Recruits Arrive In San Diego For Basic Training

 January 27, 2021 at 10:26 AM PST

Speaker 1: 00:00 Congress is requiring the Marines to fully integrate women into bootcamp. It is a historic moment and now San Diego is testing how it should be done. 60 women are now the first female Marine recruits to do basic training on the West coast. They arrived Monday night with 450 male recruits, KPBS, military reporter. Steve Walsh joins us with more. Steve welcome. Hi Jade. So when did Congress mandate an end to separate basic training for the sexes and was the, what was the rationale behind this? Speaker 2: 00:31 So this happened last year was part of one of the defense, um, bills and, uh, Paris Island, which is the bootcamp on the East coast that already has women. Uh, there, they have five years to integrate women fully into bootcamp. And then San Diego has eight years before they have to fully integrate women in, but the commandant of the Marine Corps has been indicating that he wants to go faster than that. So we have this test that started off Monday night here in San Diego. This is only this one class of 60 women Speaker 1: 01:04 And critics have charged that separate training leads to a sexist culture in the ranks. What's the dynamic there? Speaker 2: 01:10 Well, I mean the Marines have had several issues. There was a something called Marines United, which was a, uh, Facebook page where, um, photos of, of women Marines in various stages of undress were, were found active duty Marines were on that site. There has been in history of sexism, sexual harassment. And the thought is that this might start at the very beginning because women are not integrated at all levels of bootcamp. There was a thought that, um, they're seen as something separate from male Marines. So this is an attempt to try to, uh, close that gap. Speaker 1: 01:47 Is this mandate applicable to all services or just the Marines? And how did the Marine Corps react to this move? Speaker 2: 01:53 It only applies to the Marine Corps because the Marine Corps is the last of the services to have this separated bootcamp, which is why they're under this, this congressional mandate in the past, they've reacted by, by dragging their feet saying that there was a, there, there were many reasons why they should keep women separate at bootcamp. But as I said, uh, now that they know that this is a done deal and that Congress is ordering this to happen, there is some indication that they're not going to wait out the full eight years to integrate women into San Diego. So slowly, they're starting to, uh, to move on this. As I mentioned with this test, basically the Marine Corps has a lot of decisions to make in the next year. They're going to have to decide whether or not they're going to integrate women at San Diego and fully integrate them at Parris Island in, in South Carolina. Speaker 2: 02:46 There's also some discussion that maybe what they'll ultimately need is a, is a brand new boot camp, maybe a third location. They could start fresh with their, with their own bootcamp. Now the Navy only has one bootcamp itself, uh, it's right outside of Chicago. So this is historic because in the a hundred year history of the Marines training at MCRD here in San Diego, they've never had women, but more importantly, there's some very large decisions coming for the Marine Corps. And they're going to have to decide whether or not they can do this in two locations or whether they might need a third and fresh location. Speaker 1: 03:22 Recruits go first to the Marine Corps, recruit Depot, right? Speaker 2: 03:25 The way this would work traditionally is they would get off their planes. They would get onto buses and they would travel right to MCRD. And they would start the process of, of recruit ready that th that sort of iconic image of the drill instructors getting up in their faces, tell them to move, move, move. They call their parents and tell them, you know, that they love them. And that they've safely arrived in San Diego. But because of COVID, they've now had this sort of two-step process here. So they're arriving right now at the airport, and then they go over to the USO. They go through some COVID testing there to so they can find out whether or not anybody is coming into bootcamp with COVID and then they go over to MCRD and get their equipment. But then they're quickly shuttled off for two weeks of quarantine at a hotel rooms. And then after two weeks, as long as they're safe, then they'll start that traditional boot camp process. Speaker 1: 04:12 Wow. So COVID has changed things, but now what did the Marine Corps have to change in order to accommodate women? Speaker 2: 04:17 Right now? They say that they have not done all that much at San Diego. They had to add some new supplies to the commissary. I noticed when women were lining up at MCRD on Monday night, they had to, each one of them had to have their, uh, their shoe size taken, because they only had so many, uh, boots in the sizes for women Marines. But for the most part, it, they have not done all of that much. These 60 women will be in their own platoon. They will train with separate drill instructors, but they, uh, but as far as major accommodations, we, we're not really seeing a lot right now. Yeah. Speaker 1: 04:53 And what about in the long-term are the Marines planning for major changes as the process moves forward? Speaker 2: 04:59 There has been talk that they would need an extra barracks at a MCRD in San Diego, but they're going to find out over the next 13 weeks exactly what it is. They do need to have women at, uh, at bootcamp here in San Diego. Speaker 1: 05:13 And, you know, are there any women drill instructors, even in San Diego, Speaker 2: 05:17 There were not up until just very, very recently. There were women in, at, uh, at MCRD in San Diego, but none of them were drill instructors, but three women volunteered to become drill instructors here in San Diego. They went through the drill instructor training course, a few weeks back. They are now trained up and ready to go. They are joined by a group of female drill instructors who are coming over from Paris Island specifically to train this cohort. Speaker 1: 05:44 And I understand you'll be following these women recruits through their training. What will you be looking for? Well, we're good. Speaker 2: 05:50 We want to just tell the story and we want to find out what this process is like. This is incredibly historic. It's worth being just for the history value alone of having women here for the first time. And then we'll go through the process and, and we'll go through those 13 weeks with them. We'll try to tell their stories and we'll try to get a sense of just like, what is it going to take for the Marines to finally fully integrate women at the basic levels of basic training? Speaker 1: 06:17 I've been speaking with KPBS, military reporter, Steve Walsh. Thanks, Steve. Thanks Jade. Speaker 3: 06:30 [inaudible].

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Making history, the first 60 women will go through boot camp in San Diego for the first time at MCRD, part of a Congressionally mandated change.
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