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VOA Exclusive: Female Marine Joining Infantry Through Process Previously Closed to Women


FILE - U.S. Marines take a break during an obstacle course exercise wearing protective chemical, biological gear at Camp Geiger, North Carolina, Nov. 1, 2001.

One woman will make history next week as the first female Marine to join the infantry through the traditional entry-level training process that was previously unavailable to women, officials tell VOA.

The Marine is finishing up her training as a mortarman and will graduate next week from the U.S. Marine Corps School of Infantry at Camp Geiger in eastern North Carolina, said Marine Capt. Joshua Pena, a spokesman for the Marine Corps Training and Education Command.

"More women will follow her from this moment forward," added U.S. Marine Corps Communication Capt. Philip Kulczewski.

Officials say the newest woman in the infantry will go to 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment in Camp Pendleton, near San Diego, California.

The Marines now have a total of four women in the infantry. Three female Marines joined 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in January after making a lateral move request to join the infantry.

Those three were among 144 female Marines who graduated from the Marine Corps' School of Infantry in 2013-2015, when it was temporarily opened up to women in order to study how gender integration would affect combat readiness. Each of the three women has entered the infantry under the specialty she successfully trained for while attending the school.

The results of the Marine Corps' gender integration study showed that male-only Marine units were faster and more lethal. When it came to critical thinking, however, the joint male-female units outperformed the male-only groups.

Female Marines were given the opportunity to join an infantry unit after former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter ordered that all military positions, including all combat positions, be opened to women beginning in 2016.

The Marine Corps had requested an exemption for infantry and armor positions, but Carter overruled the request, saying the military should operate under a common set of standards.

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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.

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