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Mixed-gender Marine Corps Boot Camp units reveal surprising findings

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The Marine Corps was the last service to gender-integrate Boot Camp for recruits, with female Marine recruits finally taking training at San Diego, which had always been a male-only recruit training station. 

Despite many objections to this new policy, the results point to some encouraging news for the success of the program.

One of the principal recommendations of the investigation was that all recruits should be trained by male and female drill instructors. While the Corps would keep same-gender drill instructor teams with male and female platoons only for hygiene, sleeping, and overnight duty, that would change once the recruits leave the barracks. Mixed-gender drill instructors handled the training of all recruits. 

“The Marine Corps posits ‘having strong leaders of both genders as role models for young recruits is integral to their assimilation into our ranks,’ yet recruits’ primary training experiences are currently executed by same-gender drill instructor teams,” the Corps’ report said. 

“Receiving direct, sustained training from drill instructors of both genders reinforces for recruits the concept that men and women are equally respected and authoritative leaders of their Service.”

Related: The Marine Corps has a weapon maintenance problem

Marine Camp Recruit Training
Future Marines from Marine Corps Recruiting Station Fort Worth got a taste of what Recruit Training will be like during the station’s Annual Pool Function, April 27-28, 2019. (Photo by Sgt. Danielle Rodrigues/Released)

The USMC commissioned the University of Pittsburgh’s Warrior Human Performance Research Center to study recruits during Boot Camp to better look at the results of gender-integrated initial training of Marines. This was the second study the Corps conducted on gender integration of training platoons.

However, the Corps hasn’t drawn any conclusions yet from the most recent study. They have said that they are looking at the training platoons’ results before deciding how they will proceed in the future. 

A 2015 study by the Marine Corps painted a bleak picture of the future of women being integrated with men in Boot Camp. In that study, the male platoons scored much higher overall than their gender-integrated counterparts.

The Marine Corps Times wrote at the time that “Data collected during a month’s-long experiment showed Marine teams with female members performed at lower overall levels, completed tasks more slowly and fired weapons with less accuracy than their all-male counterparts. In addition, female Marines sustained significantly higher injury rates and demonstrated lower levels of physical performance capacity overall.”

For the new study, Pittsburgh’s investigators divided study participants into three main groups: a series track, where female recruit companies trained alongside male companies; an integrated company, made up of two female recruit platoons and four male platoons in a single unit; and a male-only company.

The study collected data from Polar Grit X watches, saliva samples taken at various times, and tracking logs. This allowed the investigators to get a great look at everything the boots experienced during the 13 weeks of their initial training.

Related: What does a former Navy SEAL think of the Garmin fitness smartwatch?

Injuries in mixed-gender companies were much lower

Marine Corps women do planks during Boot Camp
Amanda Brandeburg, one of Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego Fitness Center’s trainers, corrects the way a participant performs a front plank to avoid injury during a Boot Camp Challenge training session Aug. 23. The participants ran two miles, performing various exercises in between to prepare them for the 10th Annual Boot Camp Challenge. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Katalynn M. Rodgers/Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego)

When compiling the data, the investigators discovered some intriguing results. The injury data from the Marine Corps showed that in same-gender companies, the injury rates were much higher, especially with women. On the other hand, integrated companies showed a much lower injury rate.

The injury rate for 98 women in the female-only company was about 60 percent; in the male-only company, the 95 men suffered a 30 percent injury rate. But in the mixed companies, only 25 percent of the women and 13 percent of the men suffered injuries. 

The male-only companies in Recruit Depot San Diego suffered a 14 percent injury rate. At the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course (IOC), which is considered one of the toughest, most physically-demanding schools in the Corps, the injuries were much higher on the male side. From 2016-2018, there were 41 injuries reported at IOC; only one of them was a female. However, the number of women attending the course remains very small. 

Steve Balestrieri is a proven military analyst. He served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer in the 7th Special Forces Group. In addition to writing for, he has written for and; he has covered the NFL for for over 11 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.

Feature Image: Future Marines from Marine Corps Recruiting Station Fort Worth got a taste of what Recruit Training will be like during the station’s Annual Pool Function, April 27-28, 2019. (Photo by Sgt. Danielle Rodrigues/Released)

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