Imagine if a 5 foot 3 inch, 150 lb enlisted Marine were going through the Marine Corps Infantry Course and the Marine Corps decided, that in order to ensure that this short, skinny Marine did not get badly injured or harassed, he was not only forced to attend the Infantry course with five additional short and skinny Marines to be his “Buddies”, but this short, skinny Marine would also be assigned two enlisted Marines of his same physical stature to be his Barracks “Monitors”. His “Monitors would be there if he should happen to need advice about being short and skinny. His “Monitors” would also be present to ensure that he did not inflict permanent physical damage to his body that would result in “career threatening injuries”. After all, a short and skinny Marine couldn’t possibly be able to determine this himself.
This is hard to imagine right? It is hard to fathom because it would and has never happened. Yet this is the very training arrangement that has been authorized by the Marine Commandant, as the first group of enlisted female Marines attempts to complete the enlisted Infantry course in Camp Geiger, N.C. One note: the female Marines that will attempt the Infantry course will not actually be awarded the Infantry MOS should they graduate, they are simply volunteering to assist the Marine Corps in their study to determine if women should be allowed to pursue the Infantry as a career.
In concern to this new arrangement, Maj. Gen. Tom Murray, commanding general of Training and Education Commanding Quantico, states:
“these monitors will be women more senior in rank who also will serve as mentors for the young female Marines attending Infantry Training Battalion. We’re … going to have them there in the barracks to talk with the women who are going through the training if they have problems, if they have concerns, if they need advice on stuff.”
This policy is pretty ridiculous when considered at any reasonable level of critical thinking. In addition, this training arrangement in no way mirrors the realistic battlefield. Why does a Marine who happens to be a female need a special “Monitor” and “Mentor” as she attends a professional course? Does the medical community demand that female surgeons have special “Monitors” as they go through their Residency? Do local police forces demand that the women attending their police academies do so with five additional women to ensure they have a “buddy”? Does the FBI assign special “Monitors” to make sure that women going through the FBI course don’t push their bodies to injury? They do not, and have never endorsed this policy…probably because they understand that the males around her, can and are expected to provide this support…probably because these organizations understand that a woman, like a man is free to decide what risk of injury to her body she is willing to accept. Our civilian federal and local male dominated organizations also understand that this ridiculous set up, in no way resembles reality. In the field, a female cop, surgeon, or FBI agent is probably not going to have at her disposal a female “Monitor” or “Mentor” to support her, or give her advice…she must rely on who is near, and for the time being that will likely be a man.
But what is most sad about this unrealistic training arrangement, second to placing female Marines at a tactical disadvantage through false securities, is the incredible lost learning opportunity for male Marines which this process of separating the women from the men facilitates. If the male Marines that surround the first women going through the Marine Infantry Course were forced to provide mentorship without harassment or assault, if they were forced to provide professional advice to a fellow Marine who happens to be a female, they might actually learn to respect them; they might actually consider them equal. To be fair, I believe that most male Marines respect and would never consider abusing a female Marine, but a considerable number do not consider female Marines equal or even worthy of the same training.
Why can’t the men who are her supervisors, senior Non-commissioned Officers and Commanders mentor her, and provide her support if she is injured, harassed or worse? General Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has described women in the military as a second class of soldier; he states:
“We’ve had this ongoing issue with sexual harassment, sexual assault. I believe it’s because we’ve had separate classes of military personnel–at some level.”
General Dempsey is correct, and this second class status and forced separation from men during training has arguably been the direct cause for the tremendous levels of sexual abuse and assault military women endure…this separation is very patriarchal and in many ways will convey to male Marines, that the women in their ranks are not really Marines, they are not worthy of correction, training, mentoring, or even making their own decisions about what amount of physical risk they accept in training. When a Navy Seal decides to attempt the Seal course, there is no one telling him that it is just too risky…he is allowed to determine this on his own.
Is the Marine Corps placing these enlisted female Marines at an even further disadvantage by further separating them into a second class of Marine, a class of Marine that needs extra help, extra oversight? I think so, and it seems to me that the Marine Corps is actually inflicting more unnecessary damage to female Marines as well as their closely guarded and polished image with this policy. I would like to think that they are embarking upon this flawed course of action because they really care about female Marines, but sadly, I think that the men who lead the Marine Corps are very smart men, and they are men who probably do not want to see an Infantrywoman in their career, let alone have to train one. They know that if they simply just let a Marine who happens to be a female attend the Infantry Course under the same training arrangement as the men, she might actually make it in her own right, she might actually earn the respect from the male Marines in the course, and will therefore be worthy of the actual MOS designation..
It cost approximately $250,000.00 to train and outfit a Marine to the lowest level of combat proficiency, the Infantry Course costs an additional $100,000.00 per Marine. That is a lot of money, and guess who picks up the tab? Us, the taxpayers of this nation do, and the majority of taxpayers of this nation have decided that women must be allowed to attempt all combat positions within the Armed forces, to include the Infantry. The majority of American taxpayers believe that nothing should bar a woman or man from the Infantry except physical ability. Making this incredibly difficult training more difficult simply based on the fact that a Marine happens to have a vagina is, well, kind of illegal. And after all, the Marine Corps does not belong to the Commandant or even the Marines who make up its ranks; it belongs to us, the taxpayer, the people actually footing the bill. Further separating women from men during Marine Infantry training both physically and symbolically, does nothing more than make their attempt at the course more difficult plain and simple…but maybe that’s the whole point.