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The journey of Marine integration

By Winston Chu Nov. 9, 2023

As determined Marine recruits line up to challenge their physical abilities at the daunting obstacle course and swimming pool, their attention is diverted to the nearby combat station. While the swimmers are separated by sex, male and female recruits practice hand-to-hand combat together in an octagonal ring, representing recent efforts for gender integration in the Marines—efforts strongly resisted by some and strongly supported by others.

Yunseo Kim Art

Since the establishment of the United States Marine Corps in 1775, Marines have been responsible for protecting naval bases and acting as an amphibious force to protect U.S. interests all over the world. For nearly a century and a half, the Marine Corps was strictly limited to men until 1918, when women were permitted to enroll for clerical duty. Beginning in 1942, women were allowed to officially enlist in the Marines, albeit still restricted from many positions. Throughout the years, however, positions have gradually expanded. In 2016, when then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered all roles in the military to be opened to women, women Marines began assuming more combat duties. Today, 5.1% of active duty force service members enlisted in the Marines are female, according to the Marine Corps University.

Despite the significant increase in opportunities for women, they continue to face significant challenges within the Marines. Rates of reported sexual harassment and gender discrimination continue to grow with each survey period. Women are thought of as less capable, which is why they were separated from men while training at boot camp in the first place. Some argue it should stay that way, although they cite different reasons.

Several generals and officers believe that separating men and women makes it easier to provide instructions specifically tailored to each sex, optimizing the training schedule and creating a more organized and effective training program. They also claim that because many recruits are young—51% are 17 and 18-year-olds—integration would make it significantly easier for them to be distracted by feelings and emotions for one another.

"As much as I think women are equal to men, women have different needs which will not be fulfilled in integrated camps. I think it will actually be harder for women to be in the same camps, " Sophomore Mira Kapadia said.

But others strongly support integration because separating recruits based on sex reinforces the stereotype that women are inferior and should be treated differently. Many female recruits claim that segregated training causes their male counterparts to look down on them and makes it extremely difficult for them to learn to work together. Integration would help promote equality and inclusion, as well as potentially improve collaboration between Marines of different genders.

“The Marine Corps should emphasize equality between male and female recruits in lectures and classes, drilling this into their heads just as much as the drills they run. The Marines may not be as efficient as they are now if they fully integrate the training camps, but other classes or activities that don't require physical contact should be integrated as a means of unity and inclusion," Junior Anjani Shah said.

However, one thing is clear: women have played a transformative role in the history of the Marine Corps. In addition to combat roles, their roles as parachute riggers, mechanics, radio operators and other jobs have fulfilled many vital functions in the military. Although progress toward integration is gradual and still faces much controversy, the dedication and resilience of women in the Marines so far paves the way for future generations of women to continue breaking barriers in the Corps.


About the Contributors

Winston Chu

staff writer

Winston Chu is a sophomore at Leland High School. He enjoys writing, debating and sleeping.

Yunseo Kim


Yunseo Kim is a sophomore at Leland High School and is an artist for The Charger Account. In her free time, she loves to snuggle with her cat and eat snacks.

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