It's happening: the Marine Corps officially announced — as expected — that it will allow women to start training at its intensive infantry officer school at Quantico, VA and join some ground combat battalions. The changes will provide the Marine Corps' 13,800 women (out of 197,800 men — the Marines are the most male-dominated of the armed services) with thousands of new jobs and positions that are closer to the front lines but not quite there yet.
Marine Corps commandant General James F. Amos said that the moves would help them study how women perform in typically male-only units. Ladies are still banned from direct-combat positions like infantrymen and Special Ops commandos, but Amos told the New York Times that the Marine Corps will add around 40 women to 19 different battalions (not Infantry battalions, though):
In the coming months, General Amos said in an interview, the Marine Corps plans to assign about 40 women to 19 battalions of six different types: artillery, tank, assault amphibian, combat engineer, combat assault and low-altitude air defense. Infantry battalions, however, will remain closed to women.
General Amos said he would limit the initial group to more mature Marines: gunnery sergeants, staff sergeants and company-grade officers, meaning lieutenants or captains. Navy medical officers, chaplains and corpsmen could also be assigned to those battalions.
The women will serve in specialties they already have been trained in - administration, logistics, communications, supply or motor transport, but not intelligence - and will be assigned to staff billets as they come open. The jobs will be at the battalion level, one step closer to the front line than had been previously allowed, though not quite at the very tip of the spear.
The women who graduate from the school will not become officers, instead moving onto more female-friendly training programs. But hey: they'll get a chance (along with male Marines) to fill out an anonymous online survey about gender mixing! "I'm not one bit afraid of the results of this," Amos said. "I'm very bullish on women."