The Marine Corps Has Now Opened Both Its Boot Camps To Women, But Full Equity Remains Elusive
Speaker 1: 00:00 For the first time the Marine Corps has fully opened both its boot camps to women. The first female recruits arrived in San Diego last month at a camp that since 1923 had trained only men, women will also continue to train at the Marine Corps, other facility at Parris Island, South Carolina, but KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh tells us integrating bootcamp is just one of the hurdles in bringing gender equity to the core. Speaker 2: 00:29 The first class of female recruits are a third of the way through training in San Diego. Part of a congressionally mandated March to become the last service to integrate bootcamp. Speaker 3: 00:44 [inaudible], Speaker 2: 00:46 They've gone through pool exercises and scaled obstacles in the confidence course. One obstacle for their leaders, keeping these women once they prove themselves and then finding more like them, women who want to become us Marines. Speaker 3: 01:00 It's a profound transformation. Speaker 2: 01:02 They have booth was a Marine from 2004 to 2009. Speaker 3: 01:06 I got to say I had a blast at bootcamp. It's super hard. Obviously it's physical. It's re it's challenging. You don't get a ton of sleep. You're always on the move. Everybody loses weight. Speaker 2: 01:17 Women make up the close to 20% of the Navy. The number of women in the Marines is just under half of that. Despite foot-dragging on integrating bootcamp. The last two commandants of the Marine Corps have publicly found to increase the number of women in the core booth says one reason why there aren't more women is many of the most recognizable jobs or MOS is in the Marines had been closed to women. Speaker 3: 01:42 You can do every job that a guy does with a few exceptions in the air force, but the main MOS in the Marine Corps women couldn't do up until really recently. So I'm sure that's part of it. Speaker 2: 01:53 It's also the only surface to fight the secretary of defense's decision to open up all combat roles to women in 2015, compared with the army, a relative handful of women have combat roles in the Marines. I Speaker 4: 02:05 Try to stay as much out of the office as I can. Speaker 2: 02:07 Sergeant Leah angled is one of a few female Marine recruiters. Most Marines come right out of high school. Their image of the Corps comes straight out of video games, Speaker 4: 02:16 Call of duty and things like that. Seeing what's on TV, Speaker 2: 02:20 Most Marines won't spend their career in the once restricted combat roles. The image actually makes it harder to recruit a broader pool of women. Recruiters often spend months getting both men and women into shape before they ship out. One of Ingalls recruits is among the first class of women training in San Diego. Speaker 4: 02:37 She kind of had it set in her mind that she wanted to be a United States Marine. She just was a little bit concerned about maybe the physical aspect of things. And the way that I prepared her was we would actually meet here at the office, uh, twice to three times a week. And we would physically train to get ready Speaker 2: 02:53 Marines. And veterans say that bomb that starts at bootcamp lasts a lifetime even through, and sometimes even through betrayal. Julie Weber started surfing in 1996 Speaker 5: 03:05 And my first duty station, I was raped and I was not supported by anybody in my unit. At least nobody whose opinion mattered Speaker 2: 03:17 Vector of sexual assault looms over the Marines, which typically lead the services and the number of assault and harassment allegations. Weber has a tattoo on her forearm of the globe and anchor the symbol of the Marines. She says she got it. After she left the Corps in 2012, after a second enlistment, as she struggled through law school, she wanted a daily reminder of what she could accomplish, Speaker 5: 03:41 What kind of support people who need it. And I don't think I was always this way, but the Marine Corps kind of made me that way and I am strong because of them. Speaker 2: 03:52 The Marines warrior tradition is built at bootcamp advocates say integrating the sexes is an opportunity for the court. Have finally recognized that the strength and determination instilled in the beginning, doesn't just apply to the men in San Diego. I'm Steve Walsh. Speaker 1: 04:09 Joining me is KPBS military reporter, Steve Walsh, and Steve welcome. Hi Maureen. So do we know how the first female Marine boot camp recruits in San Diego are doing now that they are a third of the way through? Speaker 2: 04:24 Yeah. They're, they're doing well. They've been under a two week quarantine because, uh, there was a case of COVID. So I haven't had as much contact with them as I was hoping. They're just coming out of that quarantine. And they're actually now going up to camp Pendleton and that's their next phase of training. So we'll be going up there in the next week or so to talk to them. They have had a few dropouts, this happens, um, mostly injuries. Some of these recruits are now rehabbing and they'll end up probably catching the next class, probably at Paris Island, Speaker 1: 04:56 All roles within the Marine Corps. Now open to female recruits. Speaker 2: 05:00 They are, this happened. Um, and initially secretary of defense, Leon Panetta made that decision than was then enforced by Ash Carter. So since 2015 now Marines, the Marines were the only holdout. They came up with a report saying that integrated units fared slightly less well than non-integrated units. They haven't pointed to specific problems since then though. So, you know, bootcamping another example. Congress had to mandate the integration of bootcamp and now they're studying whether or not, you know, how they're going to go about doing that. Speaker 1: 05:34 The image of the U S Marines has for years been sort of hyper masculine. How was the core trying to change that image? So that values like honor courage and commitment also include women. Speaker 2: 05:47 So, I mean, there are promotional materials that include women. Now you will always see online when anytime the Marines put out a video that doesn't include female Marines, people will point that out that, you know, they've made more of an effort to include women. Now I went to the Poway recruiting station, which actually has three female recruiters there at the moment, but that's, that's almost an aberration out of the 3,763 Marines that are working in recruiting only 83 are women. So very rarely would you have several in the same place? You know, the Marines talk a lot about equality, you know, that they, they have made the standards the same for men and women in an effort to dispel the idea that women are somehow less than, uh, than the male Marines, you know, but that of course can cause its own problems for women. So the other services have looked more at like trying to modify some of those jobs where their standards may, you know, disproportionately impact women without jeopardizing the mission. The Marines seem a little less interested in that the Marines look more towards equality more than they do equity. Speaker 1: 06:51 So just recently Fox news host Tucker Carlson, mocked women in the military, he said our fighting forces were becoming feminine. There was an immediate pushback from the Pentagon, but was Carlson tapping into attitudes within the military on that. Speaker 2: 07:07 Yeah, those, those comments created a furor. And there, there were a lot of, there was a little pushback, not only in the active duty community, but in the veterans community. But sure there are men who don't want to see women in the Marines. And there are those who don't want to see them in combat roles, you know, but here's the silly thing. Honestly, Marines are very young service. The youngest service it, they, it runs a 19 year old. So these crusty colonels on Fox news may think the world's going to come to an end by having women in the military. But you know, 19 year old men have been in positions of equality with 19 year old women, their whole lives. They've seen them lead. They've been around them in all types of situations, not just dating them. This is not a scary or a shocking thing to them. So when you separate them at bootcamp, you almost have to retrain them in these old ideas that somehow men are really different from women. So, you know, for the most part, these young Marines, this is just part of their wheelhouse and this is not scary to them. Speaker 1: 08:09 You know, there must be a tremendous burden though, on these first young women in bootcamp and San Diego to prove themselves, how has the integration of women in Marine bootcamp, going at Paris Island, which started before San Diego Speaker 2: 08:21 Paris Island is the only bootcamp that that includes women. They've always been the bootcamp that trains women. When I talk to Marines and former Marines, uh, you know, you know, women love this challenge. They, they want to be in this environment that, that others may not find palatable. They, they believe the core in the core and its mission and, and it, it changes their entire lives. So this is a special breed, both of men and of women, honestly. Speaker 1: 08:48 Yeah. Uh, just to follow up on what you were saying about, you know, 19 year old Marine recruits of any gender are used to working with each other in ways that perhaps other generations were not, the Marine Corps has diversified before, back in the day at integrated black Marines, recently it received openly gay Marines into the core. Would you say the inclusion though, of women Marines in combat roles is its biggest diversity challenge? Speaker 2: 09:16 Boy, I would hate to rate them because the Marines always seem to have the hardest time with change. I will say the Marines always seem to get stuck on the idea that there is no difference between in the Marines that everyone is Marine green. It's part of an ideal that equality with without equity, which can be a real problem. This is really a service that wants it. All they really needed was a few good men. The rules are designed to make men into Marines. The philosophy can cause problem with anyone who just doesn't fit that traditional ideal. You know, the Marines pride themselves though on this small group leadership and decision-making and women's brains seem to work just fine in combat situations. I've, I've talked to several women who have been in combat situations and they were certainly able to lead. This is always going to be a very physically demanding job. And I don't think women would have any issue with that though. You know, not every women will ever want to become a us Marine, but th there may be a need to create a better balance between the just sheer physical force and the other qualities that go into being a Marine. The question is like, are the Marines even really looking at that balance. Okay. Speaker 1: 10:29 Okay. Then I've been speaking with KPBS, military reporter, Steve Walsh. Steve. Thanks a lot. Thanks Maureen.