Home Veterans Marines in gender-integrated infantry unit say they ‘feel betrayed’ by Navy Secretary

Marines in gender-integrated infantry unit say they ‘feel betrayed’ by Navy Secretary

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Integrated Task Force Marine Corps female Marine
Sgt. Radmila M. Allen, a member of the Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alicia R. Leaders/Released)

The Navy secretary’s recent comments about an experiment –evaluating a gender-integrated infantry unit– has many very upset.

Sgt. Danielle Beck who participated in the Combat Element Integrated Task Force said, “Our secretary of the Navy completely rolled the Marine Corps and the entire staff that was involved in putting this [experiment] in place under the bus.”

The task force consisted of roughly 300 men and 100 women, broken down into a number of smaller units. Its mission was to hold a number of trials that would evaluate the performance of a female-integrated ground task force.

The Marine Corps recently released partial findings from the nine-month experiment, where each job that is currently closed to women, was represented. According to the findings, men consistently outperformed the women in speed and accuracy, while female Marines were injured “at more than double the rate of their male counterparts.”

In an interview with NPR, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said, it started out with a fairly large component of the men thinking ‘This is not a good idea’ and ‘Women will never be able to do this.’

Pfc. Kristin R. Cosby, provides security during a field training exercise at Engineer Training Area 2 aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul S. Martinez/Released)
Pfc. Kristin R. Cosby, provides security during a field training exercise at Engineer Training Area 2 aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul S. Martinez/Released)

“When you start out with that mind-set, you’re almost presupposing the outcome,” he said.

Another criticism leveled by Mabus was that the women probably should have had a “higher bar to cross” to join the task force.

Beck says the remarks by Mabus were insulting. She’s not the only one who thinks so.

Sgt. Maj. Justin LeHew, a Navy Cross recipient and senior enlisted Marine for the Corps’ Training and Education Command, slammed the Secretary on Facebook. LeHew said Mabus’ comments were “counter to the interests of national security and unfair to the women who participated in this study.”

Beck, a 30-year-old anti –armor gunner was one of the strongest women in the company, according to an article in the Washington Post. A Weapons Company Marine in the Task Force, Beck was one of 17 women and 21 men who were left in the company at the experiment’s conclusion in August.

One of the main components of the task force was Alpha, a female-integrated rifle company, or “line” company. The other component was the Weapons Company, consisting of three female-integrated sections — mortars, machine guns and an anti-armor section.

Females excelled in the area of physical fitness, where their average score was 283 out of 300. The average score for the men in Weapons Company was 244, according to documents obtained by The Post.

Sgt. Beck said of the caliber of the women in Weapons Company:  They are “few and far between in the Marine Corps…..they are probably some of the most professional women that anybody will ever have chance to work with, and the heart and drive and determination that they had is incomparable to most women in the Marine Corps.”

Sec. Mabus made it clear, he is not asking for any women-in-combat exemptions, according to the Marine Corps Times.

Mabus said the Marine Corps’ study “pointed to a need for gender-neutral, job-specific standards for each combat specialty. That the average woman couldn’t perform some infantry jobs, he said, was irrelevant.”

“Women got injured a lot or more than men on duty. Men got injured four times as much as women off duty. So, we’ve got these knuckleheads who are, ‘here, hold my beer and watch this,'” Mabus said. “So, do we keep men from being in the infantry because they get hurt so much off duty? I don’t think so.”

Marine Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford hasn’t been as vocal about his opinions regarding women in combat. The deadline to open all jobs to female Marines is Jan. 1.  Gen. Dunford has said before that he wanted to evaluate study data before making any decision.

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