Where are the female Marines?

A total of 92 women are operating in a multitude of combat billets across the Corps, from rifleman to armored reconnaissance to combat engineers. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) Two years after the Defense Department ordered the Marine Corps to open all combat arms career fields to women, less than 100 women have successfully entered those previously male-only jobs.

A total of 92 women are operating in a multitude of combat billets across the Corps, from rifleman to armored reconnaissance to combat engineers.

Yet only 11 enlisted women are serving today in the traditional “03” infantry career fields, Marine Corps officials said. No women have even attempted the Basic Reconnaissance Course or Amphibious Reconnaissance Course, and there are no female snipers, according to data provided by Manpower and Reserve Affairs.

Of the women serving in combat billets, most of them are in less physically demanding roles such as light air defense and artillery, commonly referred to as a non-load bearing job field, according to data obtained by Marine Corps Times.

On the officer side, only one female officer has graduated the grueling Infantry Officer Course and is serving currently as an 0302 infantry platoon commander. A total of 23 female officers are serving in previously restricted combat jobs.

“There is no target number or quota for how many female Marines should be in ground combat fields or units; the focus is on combat effectiveness,” said Maj. Brian T. Block, a Marine spokesperson.

Block said the Corps’ approach to gender integration is not just focused on the number of women in combat billets but a force-wide endeavor that includes marketing and recruitment of top female talent and new efforts by the Corps that has male and female recruits training side by side, a first for the Marines.

As the Corps continues to push its gender integration plan it has been resolute on maintaining “standards, while leveraging every opportunity to optimize individual performance, talent, and skills in order to maximize the Corps’ warfighting capabilities,” Block said.

Gender integration is bringing about some growing pains for the Marine Corps. Officially, the Marines want more women in the Corps overall, targeting a goal to make the force 10 percent women by the end of next year.

Yet the number of women who have broken the gender barrier in the Marine Corps’ combat arms remains far fewer than the those in the Army. And many advocates for female service members say the Marines’ numbers paint a disappointing picture of gender integration progress across the Corps.

Still, it’s a historic achievement for the 92 individual women who are now in the Marine Corps combat arms. The groundbreaking cadre of women met unquestionably rigorous standards and personally maneuvered around the cultural barriers they confronted along the way. Yet questions persist inside and outside the Marine Corps about whether the service is doing enough to ameliorate barriers to the combat arms and making women feel more welcome.

The Marine Corps has made gestures and policy decisions that appear unwelcoming to women. And that was reinforced by last year’s “Marines United” […]