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Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force

Marines, Sailors join the Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force

By | | August 14, 2014

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A new command stood up at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune,  N.C., is facilitating a measured, deliberate and responsible approach to integrating female Marines into ground combat arms occupational specialties and units currently closed to them.

The Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force (GCEITF) was created as part of the Marine Corps’ Force Integration Plan to conduct integrated, gender-neutral training in the execution of both individual and collective training tasks within designated ground combat arms occupational specialties.

The GCEITF is led by Col. Matthew G. St. Clair and Sgt. Maj. Robin C. Fortner.  They are responsible for the overall training and discipline of the unit.

"This assessment will in one way or the other, shape the service for decades to come," said St. Clair.

The core intent of the Marine Corps’ Force Integration Plan is to maintain the highest levels of combat readiness by establishing and maintaining rigorous gender neutral standards, enhancing warfighting capabilities and realizing the potential of every Marine.

Once all the personnel check in, the GCEITF will have around 650 Marines.   About 400 of those will be volunteers, both male and female.  The volunteers will be evaluated for the research study.  The remaining GCEITF Marines will provide the leadership and normal staff functions to facilitate the training.

The GCEITF command structure is modeled after a Battalion Landing Team (BLT), meaning it consists mostly of infantry Marines, reinforced with combat engineers, artillery, tanks, amphibious assault vehicles and light armored vehicles.   A BLT is assigned as the ground combat element for a Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The Marine Corps’  deliberate approach to integrating women into combat arms specialties involves research, assessment and validation of current service approved training and readiness standards.  During the research phase of the Integration Plan, the Female Marines will execute the same tactical tasks as their male counterparts.

"I think it's a pretty cool opportunity because we're making history," said Sgt. Blake Southerland, an intelligence specialist from Eastman, Ga. "So, 20 years down the road, when Marines come in to the Marine Corps, and they look back at what the Marine Corps has done, we're a part of one of those integral pieces of our history."

The GCEITF training is scheduled to start October 2014 aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.  Upon completion of an intensive 16-week training schedule aboard Camp Lejeune, the unit is scheduled to deploy for further training early spring 2015 to conduct the final performance assessment and evaluation.   

The 12-week evaluation will be conducted at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and the Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif.

The GCEITF official activation ceremony is scheduled for early September 2014.


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