Incoming enlisted troops in the United States Marine Corps will soon participate in co-ed boot camp and officer training, reports the Marine Corps Times.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus sent a pair of memos January 1 to Marine Commandant Robert Neller, asking for a "detailed plan" on how the Marines and Navy will roll out gender-neutral job titles, entry-level boot camp, and Officer Candidate School, reports the Times. That plan from the Marine commandant is due January 15.
The military publication reports that "iconic" titles, like "infantryman" and "midshipman," will remain unchanged, though multiword titles that include the word "man" are slated to be revised with gender-neutral titles. An anonymous Navy official told the Times that Marine titles like "reconnaissance man," "fire support man" and "field artillery sensor support man" will be updated to be gender-neutral. The official suggested that the word "man" would simply be dropped from those titles. At press time, it appears that enlisted housing will remain segregated by gender.
The forthcoming policy change — which will be implemented by April 1 — follows Secretary of Defense Ash Carter's December announcement that for the first time, the U.S. military will open frontline combat positions to women across its branches.
While most military branches already provide coed boot camp and officer training, the Times notes that the Marine Corps is the last branch to maintain segregated entry-level training. It explains:
"Female recruits only attend Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, where they live and train separately from their male counterparts there.
"Marine officials have long touted the benefits to this model as it allows for intense mentoring between female drill instructors and the women in their charge. But critics say it can backfire with female recruits not being held to the same physical standards as their male counterparts."
The April 1 deadline to implement these moves toward gender-neutrality is less than two months before the Pentagon has indicated it will begin lifting the ban on transgender Americans serving openly in the armed forces. A working group is currently meeting to determine any "practical" impediments that would keep trans troops from serving to their full capacity, though Secretary Carter made clear that he expects this working group to "start with the presumption that transgender persons can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness."