The Armed Forces become a stronger fighting collective when the differences of disparate soldiers coalesce into a coordinated group. For decades, nearly all branches of the military operated on this principle – but only applied it to male soldiers.
However, both the Marine Corps and the Navy are opening more combat classifications to women applicants. While the Marines will establish an experimental force that aims to evaluate the effectiveness of female soldiers as part of a larger fighting force, the Navy has opened elite combat positions to any women interested in applying.
Fighting corpsmen and women
The Marine Corps will establish an experimental battalion based in North Carolina's Camp Lejeune that will feature 115 women as part of a 460-troop force, Stars and Stripes reported.
The experimental force will replicate training that normally takes place before a group of Marines is deployed into combat situations. Officials hope that by training male and female soldiers alongside each other, they can gain a better picture of how women would be suited to combat roles in the future.
Even though certain classifications are still closed to women in the Marines, interested female soldiers can volunteer for those positions as part of this experimental force provided they complete preliminary training courses in those classifications.
The coed force is part of the Marine Corps' process for determining how to offer more opportunities for women to service in their branch of the Armed Forces. Due to the former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's decision to lift the policy that barred women from serving in combat roles, all branches of the military must either allow female soldiers in all roles, or provide significant evidence that they should remain specific to men only.
Sailing right along
While the Marine Corps may still be deliberating its decision to open more combat roles to women, the Navy has already done the research. According to the Navy Times, women are now open to apply to more than 267 positions within the Coastal Riverine Force, a direct combat division that specializes in fighting in and around river lands. This leaves the Navy SEALs as the only remaining section of the Navy to not allow women into its ranks.
"We consistently strive to ensure all sailors and Marines, regardless of gender, have a path toward a successful military career," Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in a statement. "This not only makes us better war-fighters, but it ensures our Navy and Marine Corps remains the finest expeditionary fighting force in the world."