One MOS at a Time

In a move that seems to challenge lawmakers and DoD policy, the Marine Corps tentatively has green-lighted the opening of a Corps combat specialty to women.

Counterintelligence (CI) is opening to female Marines who qualify. Ten percent of school seats will open to women in occupational specialty 0204, 0210 and 0211, covering officers, warrant and limited-duty officers, and enlisted Marines, according to a source familiar with the move. He speculated 10 percent of all CI slots ultimately would be filled by female Marines.

While intel has long been open to women, CI assets typically are pushed down in direct support of the basic combat unit. CI specialists move from other specialties, and according to our source, these new CIs will be handpicked in a manner not unlike special operations gurus choose those who join their ranks.

So what’s changed? Nothing. These assets, though long needed at the tactical level, will be designated “general” support and not “direct” support, as their male counterparts are. That one-word keeps the Corps from running afoul of the (cue foreboding music) direct-combat exclusion policy that DoD, some lawmakers (and their constituents who vote) maintain on life support. (We hear lawmakers have considered neon combat-exclusion stickers for females, “Thou Shall Not Fight!” … along the lines of the mythic Victorian chastity belt, but these would make sure women don’t get near a combat situation.)

The combat guidelines have become murky over the years. Public Law 103-160 requires the services to give the Armed Services Committees 30 days’ notice before assigning women into a combat unit not already on the sanitized list. (Not that that has mattered much in recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.) Congress requires 90 days’ notice in cases such as opening a combat specialty to women. Women are not to be assigned below the brigade level to units that engage in direct ground combat. We won’t go into “direct ground combat,” but we are reasonably sure cagefighting still is ok).

So, what’s the Boy’s Gun Club to do? Probably from its perspective, exactly what it is doing, then do what it must when the need arises. From a fairness and long-term effectiveness perspective? If the Marine Corps in fact needs CIs in direct support of combat units, then designate the new female slots as direct support. Be done with it. Move forward.

Next issue.

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