13 March 2014


by Andy Weddington
Thursday, 13 March 2014

"Men and women, women and men. It will never work." Erica Jong

Yesterday morning I attended the United States Marine Corps Battle Color Ceremony - The United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps; Silent Drill Platoon; Battle Color Detachment - aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California.

It was my 14th time, in as many years. As ever, impressive!

And so were the Marines with whom I had a chance to visit with after the ceremony.

Still marveling over what I'd witnessed earlier in the day, last evening I received an email from a general officer. The content of that forwarded email (to me) - from the commandant - included instruction to share. So be it.

First, email from the Commandant of the Marine Corps...

Generals....Today at the HASC Hearing I had intended to speak to our Corps' plan to integrate female Marines within the ground combat element; regretfully, the questions at that Posture hearing did not afford me the opportunity to broach the issue. Regardless, you will begin to see some articles breaking today in the press that speak to our planned way-ahead.

As a reminder, this effort was formerly called the Women In Service Restriction Review (WISRR), however we now call this: the Marine Corps Force Integration Plan (MCFIP).  As you know, in January 2013 our former SecDef directed all branches of the armed forces to integrate females within all our specialties to the greatest extent possible, NLT 1 January 2016. This remains our standing directive. What our plan is not....is a wholesale, irresponsible, and ill-informed effort.  What it is, is a DELIBERATE, MEASURED, and RESPONSIBLE approach to the integration of female Marines, as much as possible, into heretofore closed  MOS' and units.  

The White Letter and slides attached to this email will lay out the deliberate and measured approach that we are taking to integrate our female Marines to the extent we can now, and will detail the continued testing, evaluation, and analysis that will occur between now and 1 Jan 2016. Based on the advice of our active duty EOS members and Sergeants Major, and the research/testing that we have amassed and analyzed thus far, there are some specialties that can be reasonably opened now. I am directing that these specialties be opened to female Marine assignments immediately. For the remaining closed specialties, I have approved the measures contained in the attached White Letter and accompanying slides; they will govern our continued research and testing efforts, and will inform any integration actions ultimately unfolding from them.  The conclusions resulting from our plan will help inform future decisions on how best to integrate the remaining closed specialties and ground combat units, and will identify those specialties and units that should remain closed.

Share the details of the White Letter and our long-term integration plan.

This is an important informative discussion that needs to take place between our active duty and retired communities in order to prevent confusion within our collective ranks and to prevent unnecessary distraction for us all in these uncertain, chaotic times.  I appreciate your past service to our country, and am forever grateful for your continued support.  Thank you. 

Semper fidelis,

Jim Amos

Next, the two PDF attachments - White Letter and Power Point (put into another file format for this forum) - to the commandant's email...

12 Mar 14


From: Commandant of the Marine Corps
To:     All Commanding Generals
          All Commanding Officers
          All Officers in Charge
          All Sergeants Major, Master Gunnery Sergeants,
          and Command Master Chiefs


1.     In January 2013, the Secretary of Defense rescinded the 1994 policy known as the Direct Ground Combat and Assignment Rule which restricted women from assignment to "units whose primary mission is to engage in direct combat on the ground." He then directed the Services to integrate females to the maximum extent possible. The Marine Corps subsequently submitted a detailed Implementation Plan as part of a deliberate, measured and responsible approach to assess the units, occupational field and specific military occupational specialties (MOSs) that are closed to female Marines. Our goal is to open units and billets to the maximum extent possible while maintaining our high combat readiness.

2.     As part of our supporting research effort, we have taken steps to develop a successful integration plan for assignment of female Marines to previously-closed units and MOSs. Since 2012, we have assigned female officers and staff noncommissioned officers (SNCO) in open MOSs to more than 20 closed, non-infantry, combat arms battalions. We have also afforded female officers and enlisted Marines the opportunity to volunteer for infantry training.

3.     After consulting with the senior leaders of our Corps, I have approved four lines of effort (LOE) within our long term plan to meet the Secretary's directive. I am certain that our Marines will have many questions, and we will publish additional details in the coming weeks. I expect all leaders to familiarize themselves with our ongoing efforts regarding integration of female Marines into previously-closed units and MOSs, including the forthcoming Force Integration Campaign Plan. You are the first line of information on this important topic. The four LOEs of our long-term plan are detailed below.

      a.     Based on the success to date in integrating female officers and SNCOs in closed, non-infantry, combat arms battalions, I have approved the expansion of the assignment of female Marines to these units to include noncommissioned officers. Those assignments will now be allowed down to the company and battery level.

      b.     I have approved the expansion of our entry-level training research effort. Upon graduation from recruit training, female Marines will now be able to volunteer for additional closed MOS training schools prior to continuing on to their assigned MOS. Female officers will continue to be able to volunteer for the Infantry Officer Course.

     c.      I have also approved the creation of a Ground Combat Element Experimental Task Force. This task force will train female Marine volunteers in closed MOS skills while a dedicated research team observes their performance in both entry-level training and an operational environment. This task force will be built around an infantry company (-) reinforced with attachments in the Battalion Landing Team model and will activate in June 2014 for a period of 2 to 15 months.

     d.     The fourth measure I have approved is the opening of 11 primary MOSs in the artillery, ground ordnance maintenance, and low altitude air defense occupational fields. Female Marines will be able to enter these MOSs through the normal accessions process and, in some cases, lateral moves after the required Congressional notification process is complete.

4.     I remain dedicated to fielding the most combat ready and capable force our Nation can afford, and am exceptionally proud of all our Corps has accomplished, particularly in the last 12 years of combat. In reviewing the requirements of every closed MOS and unit as well as the outstanding, and in many cases heroic, performance of female Marines during the course of our Nation's longest conflict, I am confident in their ability to serve in a greater capacity than the previous policy allowed.

5.     As we continue to broaden opportunities for female Marines, we will not lower our standards, and we will not sacrifice the high combat readiness that America demands of her Marines. Those MOSs that are deemed ready will be opened as soon as possible. Should our research efforts conclude that we should not open a particular MOS or occupational field, we will pursue an exception to the current policy with Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of Defense.

6.     Thank you for your continued leadership as we progress on this azimuth of further integrating female Marines throughout the Marine Air Ground Task Force. Semper Fidelis.

James F. Amos    



A few closing thoughts...

Note amongst Earth's creatures only man is with the "intellect" to stuff Mother Nature in a box and shelve Her, if only momentarily.

A few weeks back, I read an article on the matter of women in ground combat. The beginning of that article's title: 'Nature is unfair...'. That struck me as peculiar (as did the article) - for, Nature is Nature. It is man that's unfair.

Was use of the word "broaden" in the first sentence paragraph 5. of the White Letter a Freudian Slip that escaped the author, reviewers, and signatory?

And, in the name of reality, might there be a typo on Slide 1 of the Power Point brief - "d" omitted from Force?
As taught in land navigation at The Basic School, one means of finding your way (when lost; misdirected) is to shoot a back azimuth. That is, roll your sleeves up and start over.
A couple of weeks ago the Corps rolled its sleeves up. So, maybe.

Oh well. 

Is Erica Jong correct?

Post Script
Keep the faith!



Anonymous said...

Colonel! That was GREAT! Yes they left the "d" out on slide 1. And... a back azimuth won't get us back on course.

Tom H. said...

Should it be so simple as shooting a back azimuth with a magnetic compass. The circumstances are much more dire than that: senior leadership has lost its moral compass, and no back azimuth on that may ever be reclaimed...

Jacob said...

I took my kids to see the Battle Colors Detachment at SOI-W this afternoon. Not quite as cool as the evening parade at 8th & I, but they enjoyed it.

As a current member of a formerly all-male combat arms unit, we've had female SNCOs and officers assigned to our H&S Co for the past year and a half. To date, their presence has caused no real challenges beyond those normally associated with Marine Corps leadership, and they have performed their duties as well as than their male counterparts. We expect to begin seeing female NCOs per the CMC's White Letter, and it will be interesting to see whether they can continue the trends of their predecessors.

The hurdle that HQMC has yet to get past is how to implement a common set of physical fitness requirements that doesn't compromise our current standards or force out a significant number of our female Marines. There absolutely has to be a single standard that all Marines are held to - and none of this MOS-specific standards garbage. "Every Marine a rifleman" is part of our ethos, and combat does not discriminate. There should be one standard, across the board, for all Marines, regardless of age, gender, MOS, or assignment. Let the chips fall as they may.

A Colonel of Truth said...

At the heart of a "common set of physical fitness requirements that doesn't compromise our current standards or force out a significant number of our female Marines" is our dear friend, Mother Nature. But man is choosing, foolishly, to ignore Her - searching for "one standard" that can and will only be realized when accommodating the middle ground - stronger women and weaker men - and that will be deadly (training and combat). An all-female infantry battalion (not bits and pieces - e.g., 25%) is the real-world acid test. Life is not fair.

Bob Martin said...

Physical fitness requirements notwithstanding, they are not the only deal breaker. READ and reread the comments of Gen. Barrows who said it all during his testimony before a Congressional hearing.He is quite clear in his message that women do not belong in the combat arms. We MUST stop the social experimentation proposed by people who have never been "THERE".
Bob Martin
Lt. Col. USMC (Ret.)