After over a year of consideration, the Infantry Officers Course (IOC) in Quantico, Virginia, will be open to a select group of female Marine Corps members, marking the first time the Corps will train women for direct combat roles, the Marine Corps Times has learned.
Marine Corps Assistant Commandant General Joseph Dunford confirmed the story to the Times Wednesday, adding an official announcement on the new policy would be released soon.
Dunford would not confirm how many female volunteers would be chosen or what the next step would be after they complete IOC training.
The move is part of a larger effort to better define and expand women's changing roles in combat. Until now, female Marines were barred from the IOC and were instead encouraged to train in support roles such as "logistics, personnel administration and aircraft maintenance," the Marine Corp Times noted.
However, the leadership of the Corps have begun to shift their understanding of how female Marines can contribute in direct combat.
According to the Department of Defense, 144 female soldiers have been killed in action and 865 injured in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, proving that keeping women in advisory roles will not ensure they will not encounter violence.
Last month, the Corps announced it would be opening over 400 new positions to female members in six battalion types, including amphibious assault artillery, combat assault, combat engineer, low-altitude air defense, and tank. These positions, which didn't include infantry, will be open to women in May.
New "gender neutral" fitness tests are also in the works. Previously, men and women were held to different standards in the Corps, with women able to pass certain physical tests with slower times or lower reps than men. But the new gender neutral tests will test men and women against each other only under their overarching job description (such as infantrymen) and will hold each to the same standard.
According to the Women Marines Association, female Corps members "serve in 93 percent of all occupational fields and 62 percent of all billets. Women constitute 6.2 percent of the Corps end strength and are an integral part of the Marine Corps."
In 2009, the first all female team mission was conducted in Southern Afghanistan. Women have served in the Marines since 1918.
by RTT Staff Writer
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