Marine commanders prepare for integration
By Lance Cpl. Shellie Hall, 1st Marine Division
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, California -- In December 2015, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced his decision directing that all services open all occupational specialties to service members regardless of gender. With previously closed units and combat arms occupations opening up for female Marines, training is being presented at major Marine Corps installations to ensure the integration goes smoothly.
Commanders and senior enlisted leaders of I Marine Expeditionary Force attended integration education training at the Marine Memorial Chapel and the Unit Event Center June 7-8, 2016.
The goal of integration education training is to ensure commanders and staffs are sufficiently educated and prepared to receive Marines of either gender by October 31, 2016 (active) and January 31, 2017 (reserve).
The deadlines will provide leaders the time to train their Marines prior to the arrival of female Marines into previously closed ground combat arms occupations and units.
“This training gives us the opportunity to go back and plan our training for our units and to get the actual truth out to our Marines so this integration is done responsibly and smoothly,” said Maj. John Hunt, the executive officer of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
The subject matter experts from Headquarters Marine Corps reviewed policy changes and the USMC Gender Integration Implementation Plan, answered questions and corrected misinformation, and summarized changes to physical performance standards. They also discussed individual and institutional bias, and provided leaders the tools to address practical issues and leadership challenges.
“It dispels a lot of the myths and reduces the ambiguity and uncertainty that is in any organization,” Hunt said. “I think once you strip that away with this training, it opens the door significantly for those females to come in and be successful.”
The instructors from the HQMC mobile training team trained and educated senior leaders through the “train-the-trainer” method. This develops subject matter experts for each unit who can pass the information down the chain of command to the rest of the Marines.
“We’re going to take this information back and develop our own period of instruction and then we will present that to all of the leadership,” said Hunt. “They will facilitate small group discussion that is open, honest, and frank. Communication between Marines and their leadership is how we are going to do this.”
The audience was nearly twice as large as the mobile training team expected and it shows that the leaders are on board, said Maj. Misty Posey, the plans officer with the Manpower Integration Office, Headquarters Marine Corps.
Upon completion of the training, instruction rating forms were given to the Marines in attendance to express their views of the how the information was presented and their thoughts on the overall experience.
“The feedback has been pretty positive,” Posey said. “We’re taking the feedback we get from one session and we make improvements before the next session.”
The Marine Corps’ proactive approach to educating its service members on these new policies is a testament to its determination to train and maintain the most effective fighting force possible, taking into consideration all qualified individuals.
“I think, as long as the right people come to these training sessions with an open mind and an open heart about the transition, it will be beneficial,” said Maj. Kahlilah Thomas, ground supply officer, Ammunition Company, 1st Supply Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group. “Overall, I think the integration of women into all jobs and units is beneficial because we have to pick the right talent for whatever the job is. Sometimes a female Marine may be the best candidate for a particular job.”