Marines shift focus to get women to front line

Marines shift focus to get women to front line

PARRIS ISLAND, SC (WMBF) - The next war fought by American troops will be fought by men and women on the front line.

Today, women are allowed - even encouraged - to serve wherever they're needed. And that has every branch of the military racing to develop a plan to make sure they are not only willing to fight, but ready for the job physically and emotionally.

At Parris Island the new role of women in the Marine Corps is changing tradition and attitudes about training at one of the nation's premier boot camps.

It has never has been training for the weak hearted or the weak spirit. As the only boot camp for women enlisting the Marine Corps, Parris Island has a well earned reputation.

No sooner did the Pentagon open the door for women serving in combat rolls then something else changed here on Parris Island that had been in the works for months. And that is the way they train female recruits.

Yes, shifting the role means shifting the training. And you can bet, the newest female recruits here are already feeling that victory where it hurts. For starters, there are more sit-ups, push-ups and pull-ups.

It's about time, says retired Army Lt. Colonel Wanda Robinson. She's a South Carolina teacher now, here at Parris Island for a workshop on how to talk honestly to her students, male and female, about the joining the military.

"I've always wanted to do some type of combat, you know I'm not saying I'm Rambo or Rambett. But I always wanted to do something like that. So, I'm applauding it for the females that are in now. "

One of those females also represents a historic first for Parris Island. The commanding general here is yet another sign of an evolving Marine Corps. And she will tell you her goal is to produce combat ready men and women.

"From my perspective sitting here at Parris island," says Brigadier General Lori Reynolds. "What we're gonna do here is not gonna change. We're gonna make sure that we turn out the best basically trained Marine that we can for whatever the Corps has in store for them next."

Staff Sgt. Latoya Moffitt is a senior drill instructor who has never seen a difference in dedication between the sexes. She in one who has always been ready for the front line.

It's just sincere passion that we have here sir. You want to make a difference. You want to influence that next generation of Marines that are going to be taking your place. And when you come here you give 110 percent because that's what you want to see once you get back to the fleet."

She is the female recruit's first impression here. It was the same for this group of 80 teachers invited to spend 4-days on Parris Island. They'll return to their schools from Myrtle Beach to Memphis a target for students wanting to know if the Marines Corps is right for them.

"Most of the female educators in this workshop will tell you their biggest influence will be on female students at their respective schools. So, with the Marine Corps made up of just 6-percent females, how likely are they to direct their students here to Parris Island.

Most of these teachers say the student will determine that.

You'd be amazed at how many girls are interested in military," says Kim Saylors, an Abbyville high school English teacher. "You know a lot of times I'll say well what are your goals, what do you want to do when you graduate? Do you even know? And a lot of times they'll say, military."

McBee High School career specialist, Terri Rhoad says she likes what she's seeing here at Parris Island. "I was just in awe of how many females were pursuing it now. So it's great that they're allowing them that opportunity to do as much as the males and not saying 'no' you can't do this."

The battalions of female recruits here at Parris Island today are here because of the opportunity to serve at every level, not in spite of it.

The Pentagon mandate authorizing women to serve in combat roles only offers women that option. The expectation for all branches of the military is that most women will choose other careers in the military that will not require them to fight on the front lines.

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