By Debbie Gregory.
It seems fitting that during National Women’s History Month, on March 6th the first wave of female Marines arrived at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton to begin combat training course that, on the West Coast, was previously open only to males.
The women will be the first enlisted female students to learn basic battlefield skills at the Marine Combat Training Course (MCT-West,) part of Camp Pendleton’s School of Infantry.
The MCT-West program is for non-infantry Marines, with training that includes learning the basics of combat marksmanship, how to react to roadside bombs, lifesaving medical care and other skills. MCT is a condensed replica of the School of Infantry that produces 0311 riflemen. After completion of recruit training, Marines not holding an infantry job attend MCT to maintain the Corps’ mantra of “every Marine a rifleman.”
About 1,700 female Marines are expected to go through combat training each year at Camp Pendleton. Female boot camp graduates recruited from states west of the Mississippi River will be sent to Camp Pendleton, while the others will continue to be sent to Camp Lejeune.
The women are assigned to Golf Company, Marine Combat Training Battalion and will be fully integrated with male Marines for the duration of the 29-day course.
Women comprise about 15 percent of the entire active-duty force in the military.
At only about 6.8 percent, the Marine Corps has the fewest number of women in the Armed Forces. The percentage in the Navy is 16.4 percent, the Army has 13.6 percent, the Air Force has 19.1 percent, the Coast Guard has 15.7 percent, and the National Guard and Reserve forces have a combined 35 percent.