Female marines to be trained for combat roles
The US Marine Corps school that trains infantry officers will enrol female students for the first time this year.
The move takes the Corps a step closer to allowing women to serve in combat roles.
The Marine Corps Times reported last week that volunteers will take part in the Infantry Officers Course (IOC) in Quantico, Virginia, which trains marines for direct combat.
The change follows a new policy announced by the Pentagon in February allowing women to serve closer to the front line, and is designed to study how women perform in units previously limited to men.
In line with Pentagon policy, women will continue to be barred from roles in the infantry, or when direct combat is the primary mission.
However, women graduating from the course will now be eligible for roles that were previously for men only such as artillery, tanks, assault amphibian, combat engineer, combat assault and low-altitude air defence.
The US army is also exploring how women could be integrated into combat units.
Women have until now been banned from combat roles in both the army and the marines due to concerns about their strength and stamina.
In annual fitness tests that marines undergo, men and women are judged on different, “gender-normed” standards. Unlike in other branches of the armed forces, the Marine Corps runs separate basic training for men and women.
However, women serving in non-combat roles have died alongside men in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 140 servicewomen have lost their lives in the two countries.
The move has been welcomed by many. Speaking to the BBC, former Marine Corps captain and executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network Anu Baghwati called it an exciting development.
“As proven by 10 years of leading troops in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are women that are physically and mentally qualified to succeed at IOC, and lead infantry platoons,” she said.