Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has laid down the law for Marines and sailors, stating that the hotly-contested decision to integrate women into military combat positions is an irreversible act of social justice.
Mabus made the statement while on his series of visits to major Marine bases- a tour that serves as an effort to explain the issue to troops following the decision by Defense Secretary Ash Carter to open all occupations to women.
“Marines, we’re past the decision now. The secretary of defense has made the decision. Now we’re into implementing,” he said Tuesday at Camp Pendleton in California.
According to ABC News, Marine leadership had sought to keep the Infantry and other specific combat jobs closed to women, citing studies showing that co-ed units drastically underperformed compared to all-male units.
Despite this, Carter and Mabus overruled them. Since the end of last year, all military branches have been tasked with figuring out how to not only integrate women into every occupation but push for recruiting to fill the spots.
Seated around Mabus were 1,500 Marines and sailors, many tight-lipped about their opinions. While the silence during the Q&A session implied that the troops were exercising discretion, several junior Marines spoke out against their older counterparts when prodded by the press.
“This generation, so much has been changing, whether it be with gays and lesbians and all that, everything’s just changing,” said 20-year-old Lance Cpl. Guillermo Arenas, who joined the Marines in July, to ABC news.
“We have a lot of older Marines that were in longer, so it might take them a little while to adapt to it, but then eventually they’ll know that they’re Marines.”
When asked about the Secretary’s thoughts on drafting women, Mabus claimed he supported the idea, but that it was a decision for lawmakers to make.
Mabus states that the process of integrating women into combat jobs will take time, as multiple concessions need to be made before the Corps can be fully considered “coed-capable.”
“I think it won’t happen all in one day,” Mabus said. “It’ll be relatively gradual but the decision’s been made.”
Not everyone shares Mabus’ enthusiasm. Marine Commandant General Robert Neller told lawmakers in February that he is concerned about injury rates, retention, unit cohesion and combat effectiveness.
“We have a decision and we’re in the process of moving out,” Neller told senators. “We will see where the chips fall. And, again, our hope is that everyone will be successful. But hope is not a course of action on the battlefield.”
Mabus dismisses notions made by men such as General Neller, comparing the integration of women into combat arms to the integration of homosexuals and blacks from the 1940s to present day.
“We are stronger because we have Marines of color,” he said. “Same thing when ‘don’t-ask-don’t-tell got repealed. We’re stronger because we don’t judge people by who they love but on whether they can do the job as Marines. A more diverse force is a stronger force.
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