Marine Corps Air Grond Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif. --
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced Jan. 24, that the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Exclusion Rule is to be rescinded, a move which will open up to women more than 237,000 positions across the services.
The announcement as part of a thorough and deliberate implementation process which the Marine Corps will follow to review and validate occupational performance standards for all Marines in the Corps’ 335 primary occupational specialties.
The timeline for implementation extends to January 2016, providing the Corps with sufficient time to analyze the task and develop a detailed implementation plan, due to the Secretary of Defense in May. No changes will take place until after a period of congressional notification.
Changes to manpower assignments will begin taking effect in both previously closed occupational specialties and in units formerly closed to women. Officials will evaluate the physical requirements of jobs previously closed to women and will correlate those with expected scores on the Physical Fitness Test and the Combat Fitness Test. Units previously closed to women will be evaluated for new job opportunities within those organizations. Two of the first communities which will see impacts from the new policy are the Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Companies and the ground intelligence officer community. At this time, infantry, reconnaissance and special operations MOSs will not be opened to females. However, female Lieutenants graduating from officer training at The Basic School will continue to be allowed to volunteer to go through the Infantry Officers Course for research purposes. Two officers are expected to participate in the upcoming IOC class beginning this March.
Once fully implemented, the change could affect 11 of the Combat Center’s tenant units, to include the four infantry battalions within 7th Marine Regiment, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 1st and 4th Tank Battalions, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion. Across the Marine Corps, the policy change will affect approximately 53,000 positions. Previously closed job fields account for 38,000 positions that could eventually be filled by women and 15,000 positions in previously closed units could be made accessible.
The Marine Corps is by-and-large male-dominated, with females historically making up only 7% of the ranks. Only 494 females serve out of the 12,080 Marines assigned to the Combat Center. Nine of these women have earned their Combat Action Ribbons.
"Women have shown great courage and sacrifice on and off the battlefield, contributed in unprecedented ways to the military's mission and proven their ability to serve in an expanding number of roles," said Panetta. "The Department's goal in rescinding the rule is to ensure that the mission is met with the best-qualified and most capable people, regardless of gender."
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Amos addressed the issue in a white letter to the Corps’ general officers. “My foremost guiding principle remains fielding a Marine Corps that is ready to fight and win, on short notice, in difficult and uncertain circumstances.” Amos wrote. “We will maintain our high standards while ensuring maximum success for every Marine.”
In a statement released by the Commandant’s office, Amos further emphasized that the measured and responsible approach to implementing the changes will keep the Marine Corps focused on combat readiness and generating combat-ready units while ensuring that deserving Marines will have the maximum opportunities for success.
“The talent pool from which we select our finest warfighters will consist of all qualified individuals, regardless of gender.”