Letter to the Editor: Weakening Boot Camp
Recently, National Public Radio ran an article that was critical of the Marine Corps for resisting full integration of women into boot camp platoons. My four years in the Corps included duty as a platoon sergeant at the Infantry Training School. Several grad school courses helped me understand Marine training better. If the NPR report is accurate, the Marines should continue to resist.
To begin with, the standard being applied is wrong. Yes, about 8% of Marines are women, compared to around 20% for the Navy. However, the Corps insists that every Marine is a rifleman first, and any other job is additional. This is why the age cap for enlistment is 28 for Marines, but 41 for the Navy. By that standard, the Marines are doing a good job of finding women who can meet the demands of its particular organizational character.
Integrating at the platoon level would also undermine the immersive quality of boot camp. Marines training is completely intrusive. There is zero privacy. Integrating the platoon will introduce personal privacy to keep women and men separated part of the time. Both male and female recruits would lose out on the intensity that builds Marines now.
Finally, depriving recruits of access to things they enjoy is part of the process. Young men and women (including gay men and women) enjoy just being around the opposite sex. Fully separating them during the earliest phase of their adaptation helps impress them with the depth of sacrifice they must be prepared to face.
The military does not exist for the sake of the people in it. It exists at their expense. Every mechanism and practice that impresses them with an ethic of sacrifice makes them stronger, and the country safer.