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A Historic Female Unit Will Be Deactivated as the Marine Corps Continues Integrating the Force

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The Marine Corps has announced that it is deactivating a historic training battalion at Parris Island as a sign that it is making serious progress toward integrating men and women into a single training pipeline at its iconic training base.

In a press release issued Wednesday, the Corps announced that it will deactivate the 4th Recruit Training Battalion — a unit that has trained female Marines since 1986 — in a ceremony on June 15, 2023.

“Today, successful recruit training standardization makes an all-female training battalion unnecessary, as all recruits have been training in gender-integrated companies since 2022,” the service explained in its statement.

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Established in 1915, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina has trained recruits for more than 100 years and, as a result, it holds a special place in the already lore-centered Corps. Since 1949, it was also the sole base where female Marine recruits would receive training. However, that training kept the two genders separate until 2019 when the service finally graduated its first co-ed company of 50 Marines.

Despite the long history, the Marines struggled to make progress on integrating their entry-level training over the last decade until Congress stepped in and used its annual military policy bill — the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) — to push the service along.

The 2020 NDAA required the Corps stop separating trainees by gender at Parris Island within five years and at its recruit depot in San Diego within eight. By contrast, the Navy has been training women alongside men since the 1990s.

Memos produced by the Marine Corps in recent years have cited things like insufficient space and instructors as challenges to completing integration.

The move to deactivate the female training unit is being hailed as “a moment to celebrate progress” by the service’s top officer, Commandant Gen. David Berger.

“I’m proud to see our male and female recruits benefit from having access to the quality of all our leaders — at Parris Island and San Diego — through an unchanging, tough and realistic recruit training curriculum,” Berger added in the press release.

Some reactions on the Parris Island social media accounts have noted that the move will help break down barriers between male and female Marines by making them go through an identical boot camp experience.

“It won’t be long before there are female Drill Instructors who, as recruits, graduated alongside their male counterparts,” the Corps’ top enlisted official, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy Black, said in the statement.

Meanwhile, Marine Corps officials are sensitive to what the unit, and its end, means to many female Marines. The branch plans to hold a ceremony at Parris Island this summer “to formally deactivate the battalion, honor its legacy, and highlight the historic unit’s impact on the transformation of female Marines.”

“On 15 June 2023, we will bid farewell to 4th Battalion in a deactivation ceremony that concludes her glorious tenure, closing the final chapter of integrating recruit training,” the statement said.

Chief Warrant Officer Bobby Yarbrough, a spokesman for the base, also posted on Facebook that “while all the details are not complete yet, there will be a display at the … Parris Island Museum that honors the legacy of 4th Recruit Training Battalion.”

As part of the unit’s deactivation, the Corps also said that it will move some of its Marines to San Diego, which lags behind Parris Island in training men and women alongside each other, in an effort to “create a more similar organization at both depots.”

— Konstantin Toropin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

Related: Marine Corps Considers Abandoning Parris Island Amid Rising Extreme Weather Threats

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