Brass Walk Back General’s ‘Barbie Doll’ Remarks After Backlash

FILE – U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Austin Renforth, the commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. meets the Marines of First Marine Corps District in Garden City, N.Y., July 20, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Elizabeth Thurston) Marine Corps leadership is in damage control mode after comments made by the general in charge of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in an interview with Military.com generated a furor online.

In a video posted to social media Thursday evening, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Glenn Walters said he had been asked about the article, which dealt with the Corps’ efforts to make boot camp more integrated by gender.

In the Military.com interview, published Tuesday, Brig. Gen. Austin Renforth said the Marine Corps wanted to keep the early stages of recruit training separated by gender in part because female recruits tended to lack confidence when they arrived at boot camp, and having male recruits see them during the early days when they’re struggling and emotional could make the wrong impression.

"I think we’re trying to find, recruiting-wise, those women who were handed lacrosse sticks and hockey sticks growing up and not Barbie dolls," he said in the interview. "We don’t always get that."

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While the comments generated some public reaction on Facebook and Twitter, a military official close to the situation told Military.com there had been an even stronger backlash within closed military-centric Facebook groups, and among "key stakeholders" among the Marines ‘ efforts to promote gender integration in training.

The official praised Renforth for finding more opportunities for male and female recruits to train side-by-side in boot camp, but said his "clumsy choice of words" could detract from the Marine Corps’ "overall goals" when it comes to training women and men.

"I was asked about my opinion on a recent Military.com article on integrated recruit training," Walters said in the one-minute video. "So, here goes. I am proud of the commanding general of Parris Island’s effort to integrate the training of male and female recruits where it makes sense, and he has done that. In fact, we are more integrated now than ever, and it’s working."

Walters reiterated the institutional viewpoint that there was value in training separately in the early boot camp stages, but disavowed Renforth’s statements about female recruits’ upbringings affecting their confidence levels.

"When it comes to hockey, lacrosse, or Barbie dolls, quite frankly I could not care less what games a troop plays prior to making the commitment to become a United States Marine," Walters said.

"As long as we continue to get young men and women of character and discipline who possess a willingness to be part of something bigger than self we will continue making marines, winning our nation’s battles, and returning quality citizens back to their communities after their service to our great country," he said.

Lt. Col. Eric Dent, public affairs officer for Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, told Military.com that Walter’s statement was not meant to be a rebuke or reprimand to […]