Marines Pioneer Program Pairing Women with Combat Units

Lt. Brandy Soublet on the Marine base, 29 Palms in Southern California. Soublet is about as far from the war front as possible at her desk in the California desert, but she's on the front lines of an experiment that could one day put women as close to combat as their male peers. The Penfield, N.Y. woman is one of 45 female Marines assigned this summer to 19 all-male combat battalions. (AP Photo/USMC, Cpl. William J. Jackson)

Lt. Brandy Soublet on the Marine base, 29 Palms in Southern California. (AP Photo/USMC, Cpl. William J. Jackson)

This summer, the U.S. Marine Corps assigned 45 female Marines to 19 all-male combat battalions. It’s an experiment to gradually integrate women into combat units and judge the impact.

Julie Watson writes about the Marine pilot program for women in an  article for, an online magazine for military families. She gives insight into the experiences of active-duty women:

No branch is likely to feel that change more than the Marine Corps.

The small, tight-knit force is the most male of the armed services and prides itself on having the toughest and most aggressive warriors. The Corps historically has higher casualty rates because it is considered to be the “tip of the spear,” or the first to respond to conflicts. It also was among the last military branches to open its doors to women, forming the first female Corps in 1943, according to the Women’s Memorial in Washington D.C.

But changing times are challenging the traditions of the force, long likened to a brotherhood.

Modern warfare has put women in combat like never before over the past decade, even though a 1994 policy bars them from being assigned to ground combat units below the brigade level, which were considered too dangerous since they are often smaller and closer to combat for longer periods.

A second lawsuit challenging the Department of Defense policy against women in combat was filed last week.

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