One of the many facets of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that Donald Trump signed into law on December 20th is bringing big changes to Marine Corps recruit training: all platoons will soon be co-ed.
While the Marine Corps has long practiced gender integrated training in the fleet, gender distinctions during recruit training have remained, for the most part, intact. Male recruits and female recruits are kept largely separate from one another aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, with the genders integrating in the more specialized schools that follow. However, the new law mandates that the Marines quickly begin taking steps toward gender integrated recruit training, with the complete changeover mandated to occur within the next five years at Parris Island. This shift wasn’t without notice, as Maj. Joshua Benson pointed out prior to the NDAA being signed into law.
“Once (the law) is signed, we will immediately begin preparing to meet the requirements laid out in the NDAA,” Benson told the Marine Corps Times.
Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, on the other hand, has never trained female recruits, but will be required to under the provisions of this new law. Unlike Parris Island, however, San Diego has been given eight years to properly establish a co-ed training environment. The additional time is likely due to the need to establish separate squad bay and bathroom accommodations for female recruits.
At least three gender-integrated recruit companies graduated from Parris Island in 2019, though the decision to integrate these companies was largely based on the number of recruits awaiting training, rather than the forthcoming law. Each of these companies consisted of five all-male platoons and a single female one–but an integrated company is a long way from fully integrated platoons. The vast majority of recruit training is conducted at the platoon level, with company level events like physical training and the obstacle course often allotting little to no interaction between recruits, especially among recruits from different platoons.
Currently, the Marine Corps is the only remaining military branch that has yet to integrate genders at boot camp.
Feature image courtesy of Cpl. Vivien Alstad. U.S. Marine Corps