Cohen Supports Services' Basic Training
By Staff Sgt. Alicia K. Borlik, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 15, 1998 Defense Secretary William Cohen announced June 10 the military services should continue training as usual -- whether gender integrated or segregated.
Cohen said he was convinced on this and other issues by a report submitted by the services in March. He had directed them months before to review and to respond to the December report of the Kassebaum Baker panel on gender-integrated training and related issues.
"The services believe they need the flexibility to design training to fit the needs of deployments and missions, and I am giving them that flexibility," he said. "But I also want to make sure that the standards are high."
Cohen supported the services' positions of training men and women together at operational training unit levels -- Army platoons, Air Force flights and Navy divisions -- during basic training. He also agreed the Marine Corps and some Army units should continue separating their recruits.
"Our key leaders and NCO leaders believe the way we are doing it today is the way to do it," Cohen said. "I have been persuaded."
The services disagreed with the Kassebaum Baker panel in two areas. The panel said men and women should be separated at lower command levels, and it suggested housing men and women in separate barracks.
Cohen said he sided with the services' rebuttals. "We cannot run a military without women, and our goal is to find a way to train men and women together," he said.
The Navy and Air Force will continue to billet men and women recruits on separate floors in the same barracks. The Army will provide totally separate and secure sleeping areas and latrines for men and women recruits, but not necessarily on separate floors, due to modest funding for construction. The Marine Corps will continue to house men and women in separate barracks.
These housing arrangements satisfy the goal of providing for the security, privacy and appropriate supervision of recruits in the barracks, the secretary said.
Cohen also asked the services for action in three areas critical to basic training -- training leadership, training rigor and recruit billeting.
The services responded to panel requests for better trainer selection processes, policies that make authority clear cut, an increase in female trainers and recruiters, greater emphasis on core military values in training, and more consistent training standards between the genders.
Cohen backed the services' recommendations and told them to move ahead and make any necessary changes. The services plan to increase training rigor through tougher physical fitness standards, better physical conditioning and more challenging training exercises.
"[The services'] actions and attention show the commitment required to ensure high quality, effective training for the men and women serving in our armed forces," Cohen said. "This quality of training, particularly initial training, is critical to preserving good order and discipline in the armed forces and in providing for our nation's security."
He said the changes are part of a continuing process, not a series of one-time remedial actions. He charged Rudy deLeon, defense undersecretary for personnel and readiness, to set up a permanent way to monitor how well the services meet the new standards and practices for basic training.
Cohen's announcement comes while Congress debates an end to gender-integrated training. He said he has presented his views on this issue to Congress.