Breaking a barrier, women become US Marines after surviving ‘melting pot’ By Reuters

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2/2 © Reuters. Women of Lima Company is breaking through a barrier by becoming US Marines at Camp Pendleton 2/2

By Daniel Trotta CAMP PENDLETON, California (Reuters) – U.S. Navy recruits, both women and men, patrolled through a simulated village that was suddenly hit by machine gun fire and simulated explosions. When the dust cleared, the women emerged carrying the men on their shoulders and vice versa, practicing how to extract casualties from the battlefield. Others lifted mannequins on a bunk as if they were injured comrades, passing them over a wall, before moving on to cage training with other recruits and an obstacle course. It’s all part of the “crucible,” a 54-hour test of strength and spirit that recruits must pass before becoming US Marines. Now, for the first time, the women of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego have gone through the melting pot and earned their Eagle, Globe and Anchor emblems at Camp Pendleton, the sprawling and mountainous Navy base about 40 miles ( 65 km) north of San Diego. Previously, recruits and training instructors were limited to the Navy’s only other training camp, Parris Island, South Carolina, which graduates 3,400 navies a year, about 10% of the total number of new navies created on both coasts. . The first 53 female recruits on the West Coast became Marines on Thursday, breaking one of the last gender barriers in the US military and in the branch of service that has been most resistant to integrating women. “There is definitely some pressure to succeed. There are high expectations for us,” said Annika Tarnanen, 19, of Minneapolis, one of 60 women who began training recruits in January in San Diego. Seven dropped out due to injuries. The Marine Corps has consistently lagged the other military branches in integrating women and was 8.6% women in 2018, roughly half of the 16.5% figure if the Army is considered. , the Navy, Air Force and Marines as a whole, according to a 2020 General Accounting Office report. When former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter ordered that all combat roles be open to women in December 2015, the Marine Corps was the only one among the services that requested exceptions in areas such as infantry, machine gun, fire support and reconnaissance, according to a report from the Congressional Investigation Service. The exceptions were denied. Among the new Marines at Camp Pendleton was 19-year-old Emily Zamudio, now a Private First Class who will join the infantry as a rifleman, a combat role. “I really wanted to inspire more women to play male roles,” said Zamudio, from Madera, California. “I want more women to know that no matter what your size is, you can do it.” Tens of thousands of American women participated in the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq this century. Although they were not directly assigned combat roles, some saw action and died when the battle lines changed. A WALK AND A SHOUT The crucible has been a part of Marine Corps training since the 1990s. Although the Marine Corps has different fitness standards for people based on age and gender throughout their careers, all recruits face the same trials in this ritual. The recruits used to train separately on Parris Island, but as of 2019 they were integrated with the men. On the west coast, where San Diego recruits move to Camp Pendleton to complete the melting pot, the pioneering all-female Platoon 3241 integrated with the five male platoons that make up the Lima Company, camping out in the open in the same three. hours. of sleep per night. Like the men, the women concluded with a 9-mile (15 km) hike with rifles and 50-pound (23 kg) backpacks, climbing a final hill with guttural screams to a peak overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The instructors of each platoon presented them with their emblems in a solemn rite of passage. “You are part of the history of the Marine Corps,” Sergeant Amber Staroscik, the women’s platoon chief drill instructor, told her newly appointed Marines. Staroscik did her recruiting training on Parris Island and worked as an exercise instructor there until she moved to the West Coast. “I knew the meaning of this when I started. We were always denied,” Staroscik said. “Now they see us training side by side. We carry the same backpack and walk the same distance. Hopefully some of the gender biases are erased.” Staroscik said one of his best recruits was 20-year-old Abigail Ragland, who said the platoon felt a special obligation to achieve. “With so many eyes on us, we don’t want to be seen as failures,” said Ragland, who comes from a military family in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Ragland decided to enlist in the Marine Corps because he was told he had a special brotherhood. “And now,” he said, “a brotherhood.”