Brass: Women in combat will curb sex assault
By Dan Lamothe - Staff report
Posted : Saturday Feb 9, 2013 9:52:03 EST
Repealing the longtime policy banning women from combat units will help the Pentagon’s effort to crack down on sex assaults, top military brass says.
The historic decision was announced Jan. 24 by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs. It potentially opens to women about 237,000 jobs across the services, including 53,721 in the Marine Corps, Marine officials said.
The reversal was billed as an effort to afford women equal rights in the military to the fullest extent possible. But it also could curb sexual assault, which senior service leaders have characterized as an epidemic.
“I believe it’s because we’ve had a separate class of military personnel, at some level,” Dempsey told reporters at the Pentagon. “Now, as you know, it’s far more complicated than that, but when you have one part of the population that is designated as warriors and another part that’s designated as something else, I think that disparity begins to establish a psychology that in some cases it led to that environment. I have to believe, the more we can treat people equally, the more likely they are to treat each other equally.”
Lt. Gen. Robert Milstead, deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs, said he likes Dempsey’s observation. Making it clear to male Marines that women need to be treated equally is “the way we need to be,” said the three-star manpower chief.
“He’s your brother. She’s your sister. Treat each other accordingly,” Milstead said, describing the mindset he wants Marines to have. “You and your sister fight, but by God, let anyone mess with your sister and they’re going to deal with you.”
The Corps announced a series of training initiatives and personnel changes in June after determining that insufficient leadership largely was to blame for the number of sexual assaults in the service. At least 333 sex assaults were reported in the Corps in fiscal 2011, despite current research indicating the crime is significantly underreported, according to a 27-page campaign plan signed by Commandant Gen. Jim Amos.
Amos has said sexual assault undermines military readiness, unit cohesion and morale, and he outlined a plan that will take up to two years to fully implement. It did not include incorporating women in combat units, but it called for the integration of female drill instructors into supporting roles for male recruits at boot camp and as combat instructors at the School of Infantry by Jan. 1.
The intent, according to the campaign plan, is to introduce male Marines to “role model” female Marines early in their careers.