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2. Marine Corps Combat Arms

Women in the Military

The documents linked below provide information that is essential for understanding of policy changes affecting women and men in the Marine Corps.  Researchers are invited to review these documents, as well as articles available in the Issues Research & Analysis section of this website.

CMR: CMR Files Comprehensive Statement for the Record for Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on Women in Direct Ground Combat

  • CMR: Statement for the Record, Senate Armed Services Committee, Submitted by CMR President Elaine Donnelly, Feb. 2, 2016

Official Record of Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing, Feb. 2, 2016

  • CMR Statement, pages 22-58
  • Paul Davis, Ph.D. Statement, pages 59-63

Some of the USMC Research documents are posted here, but CMR has learned that about half were omitted from the list posted on the Defense Department website:

When Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter disregarded USMC recommendations and a request for exemptions in December 2015, the Marines produced this plan to implement the administrations’ policies.   The CMR Statement for the Record linked above analyzes many of the flawed expectations incorporated in the USMC plan to comply with administration orders:

Previous USMC Research, 2012 - 2015

CMR: Marines Set Sound Priorities: Survivability & Lethality in Battle

USMC Research ˗  4-Page Executive Summary

USMC Research ˗ Infantry Course Completion Rates

Interim CMR Special Report, Part I, Sept. 2014, U.S. Marine Corps Research Findings: Where Is the Case for Co-Ed Ground Combat?

CMR Policy Analysis: Double-Think About Double Standards - "Gender-Neutral Training to Include Gender-Normed Scores

CMR: Seven Reasons Why Women-in-Combat Diversity Will Degrade Tough Training Standards

March 2015 Edition of Military Medicine Magazine:  Changes in Combat Task Performance Under Increasing Loads in Active-Duty Marines

There is no evidence that Marine women want to be eligible for the combat arms on an involuntary basis.  Exhibit D in the CMR Special Report Part I, posted above, highlights the voices of women interviewed by an academic researcher when the push for women  in the infantry was just beginning in 2012.  A number of surveys have shown that women Marines want to serve their country, but do not want to be treated like men in the combat arms:

These veteran female Marines have questioned the wisdom of forcing women to deploy with men in a close combat environment, where the physical demands and medical penalties are more severe for women than men:

Background & Essential Information

Direct Ground Combat More Than Being "In Harm's Way"

The media and many otherwise informed people keep confusing "land combat" with the war zone experience of being "In Harm's Way."

Without question, American women who have served with skill and courage in recent wars.  Female engagement and cultural support teams have performed valuable work with civilian women and children in Middle East warzones that are “In Harm’s Way.” 

In a war zone, everyone is serving "In Harm's Way."  As stated in long-standing regulations promulgated by then-Defense Secretary Les Aspin in 1994, direct ground combat" (DGC) involves deliberate offensive action to attack  the enemy under fire:

The direct ground combat mission of Marine and Army "tip of the spear" infantry and Special Operations Forces involves attacking the enemy with deliberate offensive action.  Even with advanced technology under “asymmetric” battlefield conditions, direct ground combat missions have not changed.  Because physical requirements are very great, in that environment women do not have an equal opportunity to survive, or to help fellow soldiers survive.

The 1992 Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces published findings that included the definitions of direct ground combat adopted by the various armed services:

Unit Cohesion

Many news reports construe "cohesion" as being well-liked in a given unit.  But that is not the correct definition in armed forces combat units. 

The Report of the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces included this definition of cohesion, which was explained in detail by Dr. William Daryl Henderson, a member of the commission, who wrote a book on the subject.  (Nov. 15, 1992, Finding 2.5.1, p. C80) It uses the word "survival" three times in one short paragraph and stresses the importance of the group, not the individual:

Cohesion is the relationship that develops in a unit or group where (1) members share common values and experiences; (2) individuals in the group conform to group norms and behavior in order to ensure group survival and goals; (3) members lose their personal identity in favor of a group identity; (4) members focus on group activities and goals; (5) unit members become totally dependent on each other for the completion of their mission or survival; and (6) group members must meet all standards of performance and behavior in order not to threaten group survival.” (Emphasis added.)

The following documents provide historic background on this issue:

  • Elaine Donnelly, Duke University Journal of Gender Law & Policy, Gender, Sexuality & the Military, Constructing the Co-Ed Military, Vol. 14, Issue 2, May 2007, pp. 815-952.

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More information on this and related topics is available in the Issues Research and Analysis Section of this website.