MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
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.
will in one way or the other, shape the service for decades to come," said
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.
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
"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
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
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
The GCEITF official
activation ceremony is scheduled for early September 2014.