Lt. Col. Kate Germano, who took command of the Marine Corps’ all-women boot camp, was fired on June 30. The Corps said her Marines had been mistreated; she said her ability to command had been undermined.Credit Department of Defense
Earlier this week, The Times asked readers what they thought of Lt. Col. Kate Germano’s article arguing parity for men and women who enlist in the Marines Corps, and what could be done to improve gender integration. Colonel Germano, who served at the all-women boot camp in Parris Island in South Carolina, wrote that women face “lower expectations for accountability” and that “high standards should be demanded of all recruits and Marines.”
About 350 people responded, most of them in favor of equal standards and expectations of training for Marines, but others believed that women cannot meet the physical demands required of a Marine when placed in conflict. Here are selections from the comments, which have been edited and condensed for clarity.
Continue to pave the way for women
I graduated from Parris Island in 1976 and was one of the first female Marines allowed into the Avionics MOS. Though I was only one of two females in the entire squadron, I not only pulled my weight, but felt I made great strides for the female Marines to come behind me. I’m glad to see that nearly 40 years later, someone else is carrying that banner!
Lowering expectations lowers performance
I am a 1986 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and have trained with women throughout my military career. They took the same classes and tests, and were expected to score as well or better than us, their male counterparts. There were a a few rare exceptions to the absolute meritocracy, all involving the upper body strength in specific physical strength tests. No bias, just a simple fact. I was privileged to study with and train alongside women who were every bit as capable and had the scores to prove it. I concur with Lt. Col Germano, lowering expectations lowers performance.
—Nelson, SLC, Utah
If women are going to demand to be in combat or in the Special Forces they should be required to complete and pass the same training as the men. If they cannot, then they shouldn’t be allowed to join those units. It is critical than any women in combat situations or Special Forces be able to perform to the same physical level as men. If they cannot then they are a hindrance to the unit and have no place there. I should mention that I am a woman and the wife of a retired career Army NCO.
It starts with good leadership
As a US Army officer and airborne ranger for 30 years in the infantry, engineers and other specialties, and married to a West Point classmate who also served for 30 years I have lived this issue. Colonel Germano is exactly right about the need for integration, common standards and expectations. Given good leadership, this will not only raise the performance of the women but also of the men. It is long past time for the Marine Corps to learn from the other services how to integrate its training and raise expectations. Both male and female Marines will then perform better.
Segregation has its limits
I have over 23 years in the military, I largely agree with LtCol. Germano’s article, I have been through Marine OCS in a segregated environment, and Army OCS in a co-ed one. Based on that, I can state with certainty that *initial* basic training (whether enlisted boot camp or officer candidate school) most definitely should be done in a *segregated* manner. It facilitates focusing on the mission (training), and decreases ditractions and discipline problems. Once a Marine completes basic training, though, such as when officers go on to The Basic School at Quantico, I feel the ranks should become co-ed at that point. That said, I completely agree with holding women to the same standards as men, for the sake of gender legitimacy, being able to have confidence in the person serving beside you, and safety reasons
Women are not made the same way as men
If God forbid, my husband or son was wounded on the battlefield, I want to know that the Marine pulling them to safety has the physical strength to do so. Most of the female Marines that I see around base simply do not have the muscle and bone mass required for such effort. Women are not made the same way as men. That’s a fact.
—Paula Harris, Virgina Beach
Men and women are physiologically different. Given that biological fact, it is illogical to evaluate the performance of males and females based on the same set of factors and measures. The dispute about whether men and women can be expected to perform identically is, likewise, illogical… as Freud said, biology is destiny.
—D. H., Philadelphia
I disagree wholeheartedly. Celebrate the differences and figure ways to do so without mistreating anyone.
—MCS, New York
I joined the Marine Corps in 1980 and with confidence I can say basic training for women today is 100% hardier than in 1980. We didn’t PT in uniform; we did shirt, shorts and sneakers. During the force march the WM’s were trucked back. We didn’t even have the opportunity to qualify with a firearm during boot camp. If you hold women to the same physical standards as men, you definitely will find fewer woman in the Corp and it would defeat all the years women fought just to be in the Corps.
—Penney Lane, San Diego
Males produce much more testosterone that enhances their endurance, and biochemically speaking, women cannot and should not be expected to meet those exact standards due to the lack of needed hormonal production. Women can be successful Marines, but the evolutionary process cannot be overcome by opinion.
—Irene Adler, who commented on Facebook
Dispel the myth about gender expectation
Col. Germano is correct. The system of segregated training she describes is being maintained to allow perpetuation of the myth that men are inherently better (real) Marines and that women cannot be.
—Steve Adams, MA
I did competitive full-contact, bare-knuckle martial arts for a number of years and I was fortunate to have a teacher that expected the same of me as the men he taught (and I was his first female student). It turned out I was stronger than many of the men I trained with, and a better fighter too. It is a myth that women are not physically capable and need to be coddled. When challenged and given the opportunity to test themselves, they will perform at the same level.
People train to the standards presented. If women are provided separate standards, they will train to those standards be forever marked as “lesser.” While I am not saying that female Marines should deny their sex and strive to the “gender neutral” (which is almost always identified as male, the majority gender), they should be and deserve to be held to the same standards as their male counterparts. Any woman who joins the Marine Corps is not a fragile flower, nor should she be treated as one.
—Alison, New Haven
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(via NY Times)