The Marine Corps cannot complete its missions without women, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said Thursday.
Some people “think that diversity women, minorities, add,” Berger said during the closing remarks of Thursday’s online session of the Women in Defense Virtual Leadership Symposium. “We can actually not do our mission in the Department of Defense in the Marine Corps, without the dedication of women.”
During his prepared remarks, Berger spoke about the success the Marine Corps has had integrating women into combat units and starting the process to bring gender integration to Marine Corps boot camp.
In a report released in September to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, the Corps laid out its plan to fully integrate boot camp at both Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, and Marine Corps Recruits Depot San Diego.
Berger pointed out the Corps has women in every combat military occupational specialty ― roles once denied to them.
In 2019 the Corps saw a 60 percent increase in women serving in previously all-male combat units.
The commandant also mentioned Lt. Col. Michelle Macander, who made history in 2018 when she became the first woman to lead a Marine ground combat battalion.
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Berger also took time to lament the failures of the Marine Corps in increasing its diversity, especially in the top ranks.
“In a decade we’ve made it from 6 percent female in the Marine Corps to about 10 percent,” Berger said. “That’s not where we need to end up.”
Berger also pointed out that women and minority candidates request to be removed from consideration for command at a higher rate than while male applicants. He also noted that women and minorities tend to leave the Marine Corps at much earlier ranks than their white male counterparts.
“Here’s the realization for us, we didn’t know why,” Berger said. “We didn’t know why because we didn’t ask.”
The commandant said he still does not know the answer, but in an effort to find out he is having all Marines complete an exit survey before they get out of the Corps.
Berger said his focus is on listening to Marines who have different backgrounds than him and who have faced different career challenges to better understand the problems female Marines face.
Berger also pointed out that the Marine Corps has failed at fully explaining why diversity is important, lamenting that too often the explanation feels like the Marine Corps is simply giving into societal pressure without providing a reason that diversity is inherently important.
With the increasing complexity of war, Berger said, the best way to increase a platoon’s or squad’s ability to problem-solve is by having as many people with diverse thoughts as possible participating in the discussion.
“We’re much more powerful when we have different people looking at the same issue from different perspectives,” Berger said.
“We’re going to come up with better tactical solutions but we have to be able to explain that,” he added.