MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, California -- The Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Ray Mabus, spoke with Marines and sailors in a town hall-style meeting at the School of Infantry parade deck April 12, 2016.
Mabus arranged the town hall to speak with a mix of entry-level Marine students from the School of Infantry-West and mid-career enlisted leaders studying at the Staff Noncommissioned Officers Academy about the Marine Corps’ plan to implement Department of Defense guidance to make all occupational specialties open to qualified Marines of either gender.
The plan includes information for women who may apply and qualify for infantry, armor, and artillery positions within the ground combat community, units which were formerly closed to female Marines, and their leadership.
Mabus spoke first about the sacrifices Marines have made in the years since Sept. 11, and praised the Marine Corps, calling it, “America’s away team.”
He also spoke about plans to reinvigorate the amphibious and expeditionary spirit of the Navy-Marine Corps team, detailing ship acquisition goals and a focus on being sea based and forward deployed.
Next Mabus addressed the way ahead for screening, recruiting and training Marines for ground combat jobs.
“You don’t lower standards, ever,” said Mabus. “Let me repeat that; standards will not be lowered for any group.”
Mabus said he’d visited entry-level training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, as well as Officer Candidate School and The Basic School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. He met with leaders and learned the differences and similarities between the ways men and women trained at each training command, and ultimately came away with a decision. Enlisted men and women will continue to train separately while in the earliest stages of their indoctrination, but will begin training together later in their development.
However, he again stressed that standards will not be lowered during the process.
“One of the questions I got at IOC was, ‘Five years from now, if no woman had made it through IOC. What happens?” Mabus said. “My response was, ‘[then] no woman made it through IOC. Standards aren’t going to change.’”
Mabus said diversity in the force is a strategic advantage and that by focusing on the capabilities of individual Marines the Corps can leverage talents where they can best serve the mission.
“Once you’ve set the standards, once you’ve made them job-related, and once you’ve said, ‘we are not going to change no matter what,’ then stuff like color doesn’t matter; gender doesn’t matter; who you love doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s only, ‘can you do the job as a Marine?’”
The Marine Corps recently enhanced its screening process for Marines interested in those specific ground combat jobs now open to all.
Recruiters now administer the Ground Combat Arms Initial Strength Test to applicants seeking positions within the infantry, armor and artillery communities. Applicants must perform at least three dead-hang pull ups, run 1.5 miles in less than 13:30, and perform 44 crunches in two minutes, along with 45 ammo can lifts as popularized by the Combat Fitness Test. As Marines progress through their training pipelines, they will be tested and retested until they hit their fleet units—where they will be continually evaluated to ensure they meet or exceed the new gender-neutral standards.
Mabus said the net result of opening all jobs to all qualified Marines will be a stronger, more capable force.
“Whatever comes over the horizon at us, and whatever mission is given by our leadership, the United States Marine Corps is the greatest expeditionary fighting force the world has ever known,” Mabus said.