The Marine Corps is a force rooted in tradition. But, like all societal groups, change has to occur. It comes in the form of integration – for the first time, military officials are considering letting women undergo combat training and boot camp at Camp Pendleton, a site outside of San Diego that used to be exclusively for male recruits.
Women in the Marine Corps make up about 8.4% of the entire force. Because of this, all female recruits are sent to train on Parris Island in South Carolina, while male recruits are sent to either Camp Pendleton or to Parris Island. Sending female recruits to Camp Pendleton would result in full integration between both camps.
Integration at Parris Island is a little less of a novelty than at Camp Pendleton, namely because it already hosted male and female recruits – however, they were still separated. For about a year now, Brig. Gen. Austin Renforth has been running the show at Parris Island, working to make sure the recruits are integrated as best as possible.
Renforth has taken to integrating many of the previously separated parts of Marine Corps boot camp, such as combat training, hikes, the final physical test, and the infamous final test known as The Crucible. He has also integrated leadership roles, installing male executive officers into female groups, and vice versa. “We’re trying to expose the genders to each other early,” Renforth said. “We’re trying to give them different role models for them to understand.”
Such integration could be beneficial to officials at Camp Pendleton, who have been dealing with their fair share of disciplinary problems. Recently, they have had to deal with numerous accusations that the Marines are hostile to women, including a scandal in which Marines and members of the Navy were caught sharing explicit photos of female Marines on social media, complete with derogatory commentary.
The government also has eyes on the Marine Corps, having criticized the branch for being the only branch to separate its male and female recruits during portions of their training. Had it not been for former Defense Secretary Ash Carter in 2015, women might not have been allowed to serve in the variety of combat jobs available to them today. Carter denied the Corps’ request to segregate the jobs when the Pentagon moved to integrate them among all branches of the military.
Other than the Marine Corps, the Army is the military branch with the largest number of possible changes during the upcoming year. Some of them include the allowance of beards and nail polish, the ability to pick the next assignment, and a revised retirement plan that affects not only members of the Army, but any member of the military that has done less than twelve years of service.
Any soldier enrolled before 2018 is automatically grandfathered under the previous plan: over 20 years in the service and the retiree is entitled to a monthly pension check that includes 50% of basic pay. Troops after that will have a smaller pension check – 40% instead of 50 – but they will also have a contribution to a savings account that is independently theirs after only two years of service. The new pension plan is more favorable to younger troops, who aren’t exactly sure if they are yet willing to commit to twenty years of service.
With integration for the Marine Corps and more choices for members in the Army, it seems that change is in the air for the military.
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