A survey conducted years before all combat roles in the military were opened up to women concluded that two out of every three male Marines and one out of every three female Marines opposed allowing female service members into all combat jobs.
The Department of Defense neglected to publicly release the results of the 2012 survey, which the Washington Post obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The study was requested by Gen. Joseph Dunford, the former Marine commandant who now serves as the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman.
The results were collected before the Pentagon announced in 2013 that it would “expeditiously” open up combat roles to women, which Defense Secretary Ash Carter made official last December. All gender-based restrictions in the military were lifted as of January. Carter rejected a recommendation from Dunford, then the Marine Corps commandant, last fall that some front-line combat jobs remain closed to women.
Carter made the decision despite a Marine Corps study, released last September, showing that female service members performed significantly worse than their male counterparts in combat operations.
Research organization CNA surveyed 54,000 members of the Marine Corps in 2012, and the results are explained in a report entitled “Assessing the Implications of Possible Changes to Women in Service Restrictions,” according to the Post.
“Overall, we found that, among male respondents, those in the officer ranks from second lieutenant (O-1) through colonel (O-6) and those in the enlisted pay grades of corporal (E-4) and sergeant (E-5) were consistently the most opposed to prospective policy changes,” the report outlined.
The survey found that 77 percent of male Marines who served in infantry units opposed opening up combat roles to women, while 12 percent supported it. Seventy-four percent of male Marines who served in ground combat operations opposed the idea, while 14 percent supported it. Finally, 56 percent of male Marines who did not serve in ground combat operations opposed allowing women into all combat roles, while 22 percent spoke in favor of it.
While female Marines were more open to the idea, significant percentages still opposed it.
Fifty-three percent of female officers who achieved the rank of major or higher supporter opening the roles to women, while 30 percent were against it. Forty-one percent of female corporals and sergeants supported the idea, while 38 percent opposed it. And, 41 percent of female enlisted staff noncommissioned officers opposed opening up combat jobs to women, while 38 percent stood in favor of it.
The results of another survey, which were released by the Pentagon after Carter ordered the services to allow women into combat roles last December, also shed light on the opposition to the idea among U.S. special operations forces. Men serving in Navy SEAL, Army Delta, and other commando units worried that integrating women into special operations positions would hurt effectiveness in combat. Eighty-five percent of respondents opposed opening special operations jobs to women.