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Defense Leaders Support Mixed-Gender Training

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 6, 1997 – In the Army, Navy and Air Force, men and women recruits train the way they will fight -- together.

Mixed-gender basic training is the way the three services train, and that's the way it must be, senior military leaders recently told a member of Congress. The Marine Corps conducts separate basic training for men and women.

In letters to Rep. Jane Harman of California, Defense Secretary William Cohen, Secretary of the Army Togo West, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Dennis Reimer, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jay Johnson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Ronald Fogleman voiced support for mixed- gender training.

Harman, a member of the National Security Committee, sought the defense leaders' views as part of her opposition to a proposed amendment to the 1998 defense authorization bill requiring the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps to conduct separate basic training for men and women recruits. That bill was withdrawn June 5. Sponsored by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland, it would have required the Army, Navy and Air Force to restore segregated training, including male instructors for male recruits and female instructors for female recruits. While the Marine Corps already conducts segregated training, a senior Marine Corps spokesman said, role models of both sexes lead Marine basic trainees.

Cohen told Harman based on visits to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, and Fort Jackson, S.C., the Army and Air Force approach to gender-integrated basic training "is working well for those services."

"Each service has tailored its basic training program to meet its unique needs," Cohen said. "The services should continue to have the flexibility to establish their own training programs."

"We must not lose sight of the fact that we have a well-trained, well-led, highly motivated, ready force," he said. "This force is the product of the way the services train. It would be a mistake to mandate limits that could have a negative effect on the cohesion and, by extension, the readiness of our forces."

While the services should be allowed to design their own training programs, Cohen said, military leaders must ensure strict discipline, high standards and proper accountability are maintained "from the top down."

The service chiefs noted in letters to Harman that military men and women serve side by side throughout the military. The military's 195,000 women currently make up 13 1/2 percent of the total all- volunteer force. At present, 99 percent of the Air Force jobs, 94 percent of the Navy jobs, 67 percent of the Army jobs and 62 percent of the Marine Corps jobs are open to any qualified individual regardless of gender.

West and Reimer said they are committed to training men and women soldiers together.

"Throughout the Army, from Bosnia-Herzegovina to Honduras, from Europe to Korea, women soldiers perform the same tasks and missions as their male peers -- all essential members of the Army team," the Army leaders said. "It makes sense to train our soldiers as they will serve. We are totally committed to this philosophy and practice."

Women make up 14 percent of the Army and 19 percent of Army basic training graduates. Army officials integrated basic training for all but ground combat specialties in 1994. "We instituted gender- integrated basic training because we have thoroughly tested the practice ... and it is the very best way to train our Army. We train as we fight," West and Reimer said.

Any proposal calling for gender segregation of both trainees and cadre "violates the very foundation of the Army: an integrated, effective and lethal force that is ready to perform the mission anywhere and at any time," they said. "High quality soldiers, who will be given tough, realistic, mission-focused training, are imperative to maintain readiness.

"Turning the clock back to gender-segregated training will result in unrealistic training, which degrades readiness," West and Reimer said. "Requiring the exclusive use of female drill instructors only exacerbates further the deficiencies associated with training in an unrealistic environment."

The chief of naval operations repeated the "train as we fight" motto.

"Mixed-gender units are deployed and operational today throughout the world," Johnson said. "We have full integration across the spectrum of surface combatants and aviation squadrons. We train and deploy in the same manner in which we are expected to fight.

"Our experience has led us to conclude that the most effective way to train Navy personnel is our gender-integrated method. By ensuring that Navy training mirrors our operating methods from the first day of recruit training through fleet deployments, we provide the greatest opportunity for sailors to successfully adapt to a professional, mixed-gender environment."

Johnson said the chief of naval education and training continuously assesses training effectiveness and students' living and working environment. "We are extremely satisfied with our current results and will continue to seek new ways to enhance the Navy's professional culture."

Fogleman told Harman the training system "is not broken and does not require surgery."

"The Air Force has had gender-integrated training since 1976, and it works," Fogleman said. "Today, women make up 24 percent of basic training graduates and almost 17 percent of the active duty force. Over 99 percent of our career fields are open to women. Women are an integral part of our Air Force. ... We train the way we fight -- together."

Air Force officials have had only 12 complaints of sexual harassment/sexual misconduct involving basic training instructors in the last three years, Fogleman said. Of those, eight were confirmed.

"In every instance," he said, "the individual was removed from his or her post and ultimately discharged. This is a remarkable statistic when you consider every year we train over 30,000 students in basic training."

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