Women In Combat – The Final Test

24 Jun 2014 | by Lance Cpl. James Marchetti Marine Corps Air Station Yuma

The utilization of female engagement teams in Afghanistan and the acceptance of female Marines into the School of Infantry are the most recent accomplishments in the line of efforts by the Marine Corps in recognizing the prominence of women in what has perennially been a man’s world.


On May 22, the establishment of the Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force (GCEITF) was announced through Marine Administrative Message 254/14, which took another step towards placing women into combat roles. As part of the large scale research study, women will now be allowed to assist in ground combat orientated military occupational specialties side-by-side with their male counterparts.

The GCEITF is the unit which will be conducting training and exercises in United States under the watchful eyes of analysts and subject matter experts. The Marine Corps Operational Test and Evaluation Activity (MCOTEA) will lead the research and,  through their findings, determine how female integration on the ground affects the efficiency of unit operations.


From late May until June 9, MCOTEA representatives traveled far and wide to every major Marine Corps installation, briefing those interested in participating in the research operations. MCOTEA assured these Marines the time and effort they volunteer over the next year of this research will lead to groundbreaking discoveries and possibly the most significant structural reconfiguration in the Corps’ history.

“This has really been evolving since World War I – in that you’ve seen more space carved out for women to serve in the armed forces,” said Maj. Mary Anderlonis, who works for the Office of Counsel for the Commandant of the Marine Corps and is a representative of the Marine Corps Force Innovation Office. “It’s operationally imperative that we have female Marines serving in our ground combat units; 50 percent of the world’s population is female, so for us to not use all the assets that we have to engage the enemy, the worse off we’ll be.”


Beginning in November 2014, the participants will report to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., for the first phase in this groundbreaking mission.


This pool of volunteers will complete a workup regimen at the battalion level. During this workup, provisional infantry units will receive on-the-job training from experienced infantrymen and ready themselves for the actual experimentation at the end of these first five months. This preliminary period will acquaint the Marines to the mission at hand,  and prepare them professionally to ensure a competent and cohesive unit during evaluations.


“That unit’s going to come together during the workup, which will give them time to solidify, build a unit identity, get to know each other and get as physically fit as possible,” said Anderlonis. “Once they get to the actual experimentation, which is going to be done at the discretion of MCOTEA and the researchers, it will be something that we have honestly never experienced as Marines.” 


Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center 29 Palms, Calif., will host the final endeavor in the research process.  The knowledge and skills the participating Marines garnered at Lejeune will be put to the test in real life, real-time missions in the assessment of the integrated task force’s capabilities.


As to not skew the data accumulated through these missions, MCOTEA made very precise provisions to the conduction of this social experiment.

A control group of all-male Marines will be used as a basis and standard for the performance level of the CGEITF. Squads will constantly be switched so unpredictable operational advantages pertaining to cohesiveness and personnel ability – the draw of the cards – will not interfere with the results.


“The Secretary of Defense has given us time in order to make sure that if we integrate these units, we do it in the best way possible,” said Anderlonis. “That’s why we’ve decided to take a deliberately measured and responsible approach since 2013, until the time that’s been given to us in January of 2016, to make a decision. At the end of the day, this decision has to be based on real world, real-time factual data.”


In October 2015, the Commandant will make the final decision in regards to the permanent implementation of woman in ground combat units.


Regardless of the final outcome subsequent to the MCOTEA’s findings and the Commandant’s decision next year, the experience the participants glean through this journey will give them  an advanced set of qualifications that will enable them to conduct themselves exceptionally in a versatile and ever-evolving warzone.


Not only is this research valuable in that when it is time to integrate in January of 2016 we can, but that we have validated gender neutral standards that have relevance, and we are able to ensure that the right Marines are in the right jobs, regardless of gender,” said Anderlonis.
Marine Corps Air Station Yuma