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For first time, Marines will gender-integrate training platoons at Parris Island, reports say

PFC Maria Daume: ‘The Marine Corps will train me to be the best I can be.’

PFC Maria Daume talks about enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps an with infantry contract after graduation on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. She is one of the first four females enlisted with infantry contracts
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PFC Maria Daume talks about enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps an with infantry contract after graduation on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. She is one of the first four females enlisted with infantry contracts

For the first time in its history, the Marine Corps will train men and women in the same barracks during boot camp, according to reports.

Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island — the only basic-training site for women in the Corps — will place one female platoon into the previously all-male 3rd Recruit Training Battalion during boot camp, according to a depot news release.

India Company of 3rd Battalion will be home to the female platoon, which will consist of about 50 female trainees, the release said. The company, which will also have five male platoons — bringing the unit’s size to 300 total trainees — is scheduled to start its training cycle Saturday.

ABC News broke the story early Friday afternoon and reported that the move is not permanent. According to ABC, a Marine spokesperson said the Corps will assess how the platoon performs “in this model” as it continually evaluates recruit training.

The female trainees will be led by female drill instructors at the platoon level, the release said, though the company-level staff is gender-integrated.

ABC reported the female recruits will live in the barracks with male trainees.

“I see this as the elimination of a big barrier to inclusion of women in the Marine Corps,” said ret. Lt. Col. Kate Germano, who once commanded Parris Island’s all-female 4th Recruit Training Battalion.

“My hope is that having women and men train side by side will eliminate a lot of the assumptions about what men and women are capable of doing,” Germano continued.

While the other service branches have moved to more quickly integrate training, the Marine Corps has lagged behind. It’s a position Germano — who’s authored a book on the subject — gets asked about frequently through her work as a consultant.

“I don’t think a lot of senior folks in the Marine Corps understand that it’s been viewed as a negative,” Germano said, expressing hope that the Parris-Island move can help change that perception.

In recent years — about a century since Opha May Johnson became the first female Marine in 1918 — dozens of women have broken several barriers in the Corps.

In January 2017, four female Marines became the first to graduate Parris Island with infantry contracts; one of those Marines was Maria Daume, who, a few months later, became the first woman to join the infantry “through the traditional entry-level training process, ... made available to women just a half-year earlier,” Voice of America reported.

In September 2017, a female Marine officer became the first woman to graduate the Corps’ Infantry Officers Course, according to the Marine Corps Times.

That officer, First Lt. Marina A. Hierl, became in August 2018 the first woman to take command of and lead an infantry platoon, the Times reported.

And the first women entered the Corps’ West Coast Marine Combat Training Battalion in March 2018, and trained alongside men, according to the Times.

Those firsts were only possible after then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter opened all military occupations to women in January 2016, according to the Department of Defense, and after Carter approved the Corps’ plan to integrate Marine jobs in March 2017, according to the Times.

In August, female recruits were the first to receive the Corps’ new dress blues, which more closely resembles the dress uniform worn by men, according to the Times.

Roughly 20,000 recruits train each year on Parris Island, according to the depot’s website.

The depot’s 4th Recruit Training Battalion graduates around 3,400 women each year, according to the unit’s website.

Women began training on Parris Island in 1949, according to the Corps.

Parris Island’s “Program of Instruction” during boot camp will not change in integrated India Company, the depot’s news release said.

“This training cycle ... will provide (Parris Island) staff a unique opportunity to assess outcomes, achievements and challenges in training, logistics and resource impacts of this company training model,” the release said.

Training cycles last approximately three months.

Follow-up questions sent by The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette to Marine Corps Combat Development Command — the overarching unit under which Parris Island falls — were not immediately answered by Corps officials. Those questions asked, among others, when and if India Company recruits were informed of the integrated-platoon model, and if there were plans to expand the model elsewhere.

“While the Marine Corps has always been slow to adopt the more social-change aspects of group dynamics, once the change has been announced we’ve always driven hard toward it,” Germano said.

She added that she hopes to one day see female recruits train at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, the Corps’ only other — and male-only — boot-camp site.

Germano said she was optimistic about the announcement at Parris Island.

“I can’t imagine that they’ll turn back after this,” she said.