Male Marines graduate from historically all-female boot camp training battalion for first time

Marine Corps recruits Parris Island
US Marines with Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, graduate recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina, March 26 2021.

  • Four male platoons recently graduated from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island as part of the 4th Recruit Training Battalion.
  • Until now, that battalion only trained women, and the change shows that all recruits are held to the same standards, the Corps said.
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Four male platoons graduated from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina as part of a battalion that – until now – has trained only women.

Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, completed boot camp with four male and two female platoons, the Marine Corps announced Wednesday. Coed companies have been training at Parris Island since 2019, but this was the first time men have been assigned to 4th Recruit Training Battalion.

It was also the first time male drill instructors were assigned to the historically all-female battalion.

Marine recruits training at Parris Island were for decades segregated by gender, with women traditionally assigned solely to 4th Recruit Training Battalion. Papa Company completed their training and graduated from boot camp March 26.

The Marine Corps has since begun training Parris Island’s 15th coed company, said Capt. Bryan McDonnell, a spokesman at the depot.

Capt. Adan Rivera, the company commander, said in a Marine Corps news release that assigning men to 4th Battalion demonstrates that recruits are held to the same standards, regardless of gender.

When a male recruit was told he’d be making history after being assigned to 4th Battalion, he said he didn’t think “anybody grasped what was going on.”

“We’re here to train, let’s train,” he said in the release.

Both female and male recruits have now been assigned to all four of Parris Island’s recruit training battalions.

McDonnell said the 4th Recruit Training Battalion squad bay is smaller than some of the newer living facilities at Parris Island. The Marine Corps tends to see more recruits reporting to boot camp in the summer months following high-school graduations.

With fewer arriving in the winter months, McDonnell said they had the right number of male and female trainees to assign them to that battalion.

Men and women training in coed companies live in the same barracks, but have separate squad bays with different sleeping and bathing facilities. Training that occurs outside the squad bays is done together.

Platoons are still assigned drill instructors of the same gender as their recruits.

The men with 4th Battalion aren’t the only Marine recruits to make history at boot camp this year. Women are currently training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in coed companies for the first time in that base’s 100-year history.

The 2020 defense authorization bill directed the Marine Corps to make both of its entry-level training sites coed. The service was given five years to make training coed at Parris Island and eight years at San Diego.

– Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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For the first time ever, the Marine Corps will train women at its all-male West Coast boot camp

Marine Corps recruit boot camp Parris Island
A recruit receives instructions on the range prior to live fire on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, November 12, 2019.

  • The Marine Corps is sending women to its all-male West Coast boot camp in San Diego for the first time.
  • The Corps already trains women at its other recruit depot in South Carolina, but the service is preparing to meet a congressional mandate to make its entry-level training coed.
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For the first time ever, the Marine Corps is about to send dozens of women to its all-male West Coast boot camp as the service prepares to meet a congressional mandate to make its entry-level training coed.

About 60 female recruits will begin training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in February, multiple officials told Military.com. The plan is part of a test run as the Marine Corps experiments with ways to end its long-held tradition of separating enlisted recruits by gender when they arrive at boot camp.

The service has historically trained female recruits only at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina. But it is required by law to end that practice within five years at Parris Island and within eight at San Diego.

Three women will also graduate from the Marine Corps’ West Coast drill instructor school this week, officials said. The new drill instructors will be part of the team responsible for training the incoming female platoon.

Commandant Gen. David Berger, the Marine Corps’ top general, said during a Defense One event in September that the service would “run a couple of trials this wintertime” in which it would move female drill instructors from South Carolina to San Diego “and train recruits on the West Coast to see how this is going to work.”

It was not immediately clear at the time whether that meant the drill instructors would train the male recruits already there, or women as well.

Marine Corps recruit San Diego
Drill instructors correct a new recruit at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, March 30, 2020.

The recruits will be assigned to a coed company once they get to San Diego. The company will follow the training model Parris Island has been using over the last two years to train men and women together in the same company.

The first-ever gender-integrated company, which included one female platoon and five male platoons, graduated from Parris Island in March 2019. Several more coed companies have since completed training together there.

Lawmakers have pressed the Marine Corps to train men and women together after all combat arms jobs opened to women and a high-profile scandal highlighted the troubling way some male Marines treated their female colleagues. The requirement to end the practice was included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which was signed into law last December.

Leaders have said that the coed companies that have graduated at Parris Island have performed as well, if not better than, some all-male or all-female companies.

“If anything, it went a little better because there’s a little bit more competition with [each platoon] going, ‘No, we need to beat them,’ or ‘We can’t let them beat us,'” now-retired Maj. Gen. William Mullen, the former head of Marine Corps Training and Education Command, told Military.com last year. “So there was a little bit of that effect. But other than that, there was no real difference.”

The female recruits that will ship to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in February have already been notified that they won’t be training at Parris Island, officials said. The women, like most men who train in San Diego, will ship from states west of the Mississippi River.

The Marine Corps is also studying, as part of meeting its congressional mandate to make boot camp coed, the possibility of training all its recruits at a new site rather than shipping them to separate coasts. That has led to outcry from South Carolina politicians who are pushing back against closing the historic Parris Island base.

– Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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