Testimony of Anita K. Blair - 17-Mar-99
Gender-Integrated and Gender-Segregated Training


MARCH 17, 1999


Mr. Chairman, and distinguished members of the Subcommittee. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. The Congressional Commission on Military Training and Gender-Related Issues, of which I am the chairman, has provided a separate statement and status report. The Commission reached unanimous agreement on nearly all issues. The only exception is the question of gender-integrated versus gender-segregated training. This is my personal statement on that issue, and it does not necessarily reflect the views of any other Commissioner. I have attached an outline that relates my views to the specific provision of the Statute that established this Commission.

I recognize the hard work and dedication of everyone involved in basic training in all the Services. Nonetheless, it is misleading to suggest that Congress need not be concerned about the status quo as it relates to gender-integrated basic training.

Basic training, whether gender-separate or gender-integrated, presents challenges. But gender-integrated training entails special problems that simply do not arise in gender-separate training. These problems revolve around the difficulties of providing appropriate privacy for both sexes, accommodating fundamental physiological differences, and controlling sexual conduct.

There is no way to tell whether the benefits of gender-integration outweigh the costs. None of the Services has compared alternatives or evaluated the costs and benefits. Indeed each of the Services has told the Commission it is not conducting, and has no plans to conduct, any studies to evaluate the effectiveness of gender-integrated as compared with gender-separate training.1

There are problems associated with gender-integrated training, and it concerns me greatly that the Services seem to minimize or ignore those problems. The Army, Navy and Air Force have declared gender-integration a success, and service members are strongly discouraged from even expressing concerns about gender-integration, much less criticizing any aspect of it. Obviously the Services cannot tolerate dissent from legitimate orders, but it is foolish to stifle legitimate criticism in the process.

Stress on the military forces, which arises from many causes, is hurting readiness. One undeniable source of stress is the confusion and distraction caused by the unavoidable issues associated with gender-integration. Unfortunately, this burden falls heaviest upon some of the hardest working and most dedicated service members, those who train new recruits.

It would improve readiness if the Services acted to reduce this kind of stress on trainers and trainees. To do so, however, the Services must recognize the real problems associated with gender-integration and address those problems the same as any others. In that case, one would expect a process something like this: Learn all the relevant facts. Compare the alternatives. Evaluate costs and benefits. Make decisions based on sound, principled reasons. Watch the results, and revisit as appropriate. Unfortunately the Services have performed only part of this process, and they say they have no plans to pursue the rest.

All the Services say they "could not do their job without women." In the all-volunteer force, it is true that women provide the margin that allows the Services to recruit fewer, but better qualified, men. But women are not interchangeable with men. A force that is fifteen percent female can do the job, but could the same be said of a force that was fifty percent female - or somewhere in-between?

I believe the Services should seriously consider the full implications of relying on greater numbers of women to meet recruitment objectives. Rather than change the military to make it more accessible to women, perhaps it would be wiser to change recruiting policies so that sufficient numbers of combat and general-replacement personnel can be assured.

We are talking about military training, and so we must consider how the training we give recruits will enable the force to fight, survive and win. The non-linear battlefield exposes many support and even service personnel to the risks of battle. This means that we should be more, not less, concerned about providing non-combat arms personnel a program of basic training that emphasizes survivability. The principle of military effectiveness should dictate how the Services train, and it should not be subordinated to any other goal.

There are serious open questions about the relative effectiveness of gender-integrated versus gender-separate training. The Services have closed the book prematurely. At a minimum, I believe the Services should do the following:

  • Collect data to permit objective evaluation of existing gender-integrated programs.
  • Carry out limited tests of different models to generate comparative data on gender-integrated versus gender-separate training. (An economical place to start would be separation at the platoon / division / flight level during the first weeks of basic training, as was recommended by the Kassebaum-Baker panel.)
  • Conduct these studies and data-gathering under the auspices of impartial, disinterested outside firms.

I can understand why the Congress would be loath to substitute its judgment for the judgment of experienced commanders about how military training should be conducted. Nevertheless, the Congress should know that the Services have told this Commission in strong terms that they are committed to continuing the gender-integrated training policies they now have, without studying their effectiveness or comparing other alternatives. It may be necessary, if Congress desires things to be done any differently, for Congress to order it through legislation.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today, and thank you for allowing me the privilege of serving on this Commission. I hope that our work will be useful to you.


Basic Training Policies and Practices

(A) Determine how each service defines gender-integration and gender-segregation in the context of basic training.
See Commission's Statement and Status Report (Mar. 17, 1999), page 32.

(I) Evaluate the policies of each of the services regarding the assignment of adequate numbers of female drill instructors in gender-integrated training units who can serve as role models and mentors for female trainees.
See Commission's Statement and Status Report (Mar. 17, 1999), page 32.
See also discussions of paragraphs (O) and (P) below.

(F) Assess, with respect to each service, the degree to which different standards have been established, or if not established are in fact being implemented, for males and females in basic training for matters such as physical fitness, physical performance (such as confidence and obstacle courses), military skills (such as marksmanship and hand-grenade qualifications), and nonphysical tasks required of individuals and, to the degree that differing standards are in fact being implemented, assess the effect of the use of those differing standards.

Each of the Services reports it applies the same performance standards to all recruits, male and female, except in the area of physical fitness.1 Fitness standards are gender- and age-normed, which is entirely appropriate; however, merely being "fit" does not necessarily make an individual able to perform required tasks.

According to our Commission's surveys, a much larger portion of male recruits than female recruits think their basic training should have been more challenging. A substantial portion of all recruits (47%) believe male and female fitness standards should be equal.2 The tension between quality and equality is apparent everywhere, and most often it is associated with sex differences.

I observed Army trainees at Fort Jackson on the Confidence Course and Obstacle Course. I observed a number of trainees who had great difficulty completing the tasks; almost without exception they were women. (The exception was a tall, thin young man who could not pull himself to the top of a wall.)

I was not able to observe the Air Force Confidence Course, which was cancelled because of rain during my visit. However, I understand from other commissioners that the situation there was similar: The trainees who could not negotiate the obstacles were overwhelmingly female.

These scenes occurred in full view of male trainees. The male recruits whom I talked with in gender-integrated units generally said they do not expect women to perform physical tasks at the same level as men.

I observed Navy trainees in "Battle Stations." They (properly) assigned team tasks among themselves based on physical strength and ability. In practical effect, this meant that, for example, male trainees carried litters and female trainees acted as scouts. In an actual ship emergency, there might be enough men around to do the heavy lifting - but there might not. For training purposes at least, all trainees should demonstrate their ability to do all required tasks.

  • "They motivate us."
  • "They lift heavy stuff for us."
  • "We trade: we do their ironing, and they clean our floors."

Male trainees in gender-integrated units had similar views: "We each do the things we're better at."

Some of my colleagues apparently regard comments like these as positive evidence that male and female trainees are learning to operate as a team. I demur. To me, such comments indicate that gender-integrated training may be reinforcing, rather than eliminating, stereotypes. "Teamwork" that consists of assigning tasks by sex deprives both sexes of essential experience.

In contrast, at Marine Corps boot camp, the female trainees must do every task themselves. They must team up and find a way to lug heavy objects; they cannot pass off dirty or difficult jobs to men. If they have trouble climbing a wall or rope, they are motivated by other women who have demonstrated they can do it.

Male Marine recruits generally do not watch individual females training, but they reported that they often saw the female units marching to or from, or using, the same training facilities the men use. Drill Instructors teach their recruits exactly what the differences between male and female standards are, and why the differences exist. When I talked with new Marines who had just completed the Crucible, both men and women said they were confident those of the opposite sex had done all the same things they themselves had done in order to qualify as a Marine.

Different performance standards exist de facto for men and women in basic training. The physiological fact is that male and female performance, on average, will always differ. I believe fitness training and other physical task training should be gender-separate. Training men and women together seems to confirm (rather than challenge and overcome) the physical performance differences between the sexes.

Injury rates are higher for women than men in all Services, including the Marine Corps. In most activities other than the actual physical fitness test (e.g., marching), a "unisex" standard applies. Considering the female injury rates, this standard may be too demanding. The purpose of physical training ordinarily should be to stretch, not break, recruits. It may not be possible to impose uniform physical task requirements that "stretch" most male recruits without "breaking" many female recruits. This also argues in favor of gender-separate physical training.

Historical and Current Rationales

(B) Determine the historical rationales for the establishment and disestablishment of gender-integrated or gender-segregated basic training.

Because of a lack of official records, it difficult to document the specific rationales for past decisions to adopt, or discontinue, either gender-integrated or gender-separate training. Having reviewed both historical research and witness materials and testimony, I conclude that political considerations were a major factor motivating these actions. (See also the discussion under paragraph (C) below.)

In the mid- to late 1970s all Services experimented with different ways of adding more women into the forces. Two main factors provided the impetus for these decisions: One was the end of the draft in 1973, making it necessary to fill the ranks with volunteers instead of conscripts, and the other was the "women's liberation movement," which was very active in the 1970s.3 In 1976 Congress opened the Service academies to women.

In 1977 the Army began to integrate women in OSUT 4training for military police. In 1978 both the Army and the Air Force commenced gender-integrated basic training. In the same year a federal district judge ordered the Navy to lift its bar against women serving on ships.

The Army discontinued gender-integrated basic training (but not gender-integrated OSUT) in 1982. General Edward C. Meyer USA (Ret.), who was Army Chief of Staff from 1979 to 1983, advised the Commission that he:

  • Received many calls and letters re integrated training.
  • Letter and call from General Ulmer, CG of Division in Europe re poor quality of male soldiers arriving in the division.
  • Asked retired General Ace Collins to do a private survey of training with focus on integrated and female training.
  • His report indicated standards had been lowered at training centers, and that no women ever made best of platoon, squad or company.
  • When new administration came in, in January 1981, I changed the policy and reinstituted separate general basic training for enlistees at all Army Basic Training Camps.
  • Women were integrated at the advanced individual training as before in early 1981.
  • Prime reason for change - women in general were not able to excel in BCT which was primarily physical. Men were held back by procedures.5

The Navy conducted studies in 1987 and 1990, prompted by disclosure and investigation of several sexual harassment incidents beginning in 1987. In January 1992, the Navy initiated a pilot program of gender-integrated basic training.

The Army conducted separate basic training (from the company level down) from approximately 1981 until early 1993. General Gordon R. Sullivan USA (Ret.), who was Army Chief of Staff from 1991 to 1995, testified before the Commission about the decision to gender-integrate Army basic training.6 He said the idea was raised by then-TRADOC Commander General Fred Franks in 1992, and the Army Research Institute conducted a series of experiments beginning in January 1993.7 General Sullivan denied that he was influenced by political pressure:

"I made the decision based on- It seemed like a good idea at the time when Freddie said it to me- And I saw him this morning. He was out running up the street, and he told me that he had talked to somebody over here and he might come over and talk to you.

"He said, 'Hell, it was an appropriate recommendation for me to make to you.' Then we looked at it. I told him I didn't want to do it based on some willy-nilly idea or some fuzzy-headed idea that someone had. We needed to look at the facts, and that's where the 75/25 [ratio of men to women] came from.

And there are data on this. This is not some pipedream here.

So at any rate, I wasn't getting any pressure from anybody."8

Major General Richard (Steve) Siegfried USA (Ret.), who was the commander of Fort Jackson also testified before the Commission about his recollections of the decision process.9

"In early January of 1992, I had just taken command of Fort Jackson. I got a call from the then-TRADOC commander, General Freddie Franks. And General Franks said, "Steve, I have been asked a question that I'm not sure I really know the answer to. And the question is, why don't we gender-integrate basic?"10

MG Siegfried said he initially told General Franks that

"what we do is we try to build into [trainees] some self-worth and some pride and some discipline and those sorts of things before we get them together and start handling this man-woman thing.11

MG Siegfried testified he gave General Franks a written response to that effect, but then reconsidered.

"So what I asked for was permission to look into it more fully so I could give him a more complete answer. And General Franks said, "Okay, Steve, go do that."12

MG Siegfried testified he "messed around with it for about a year..."

"But after that year, I told him - I said, "I've got to tell you one thing that I think people misunderstand. First of all, no combat arms officer or soldier goes to basic combat training. They all go to OSUT. The next thing is that every male soldier who comes to basic combat training is in a gender-integrated MOS and will be expected to go to war side-by-side with a teammate who may or may not be a woman."13

Nothing in the record indicates that the Army was responding to any specific problems when it decided to test gender-integrated basic training beginning in 1993. To the contrary, MG Siegfried's testimony suggests the Army had a major concern about preserving all-male combat arms training. It appears that General Franks became interested in the idea of expanding Army gender-integrated training in January 1992, at the same time the Navy began testing gender-integrated basic training.

Although the Navy, in its responses to the Commission, made no reference to the infamous Tailhook Convention incident in September 1991, that event undoubtedly must have accelerated the Navy's decision to gender-integrate basic training. Doubtless, too, the Army's decision to "fix" basic training in the absence of any problems owed something to inter-service rivalry and something to political timing. The Clinton Administration took office in January 1993. While the Fort Jackson "experiment" progressed, Clinton appointees were pursuing aggressive plans to expand the role of women in the armed forces.

(C) Examine, with respect to each service, the current rationale for the use of gender-integrated or gender-segregated basic training and the rationale that was current as of the time the service made a decision to integrate, or to segregate, basic training by gender (or as of the time of the most recent decision to continue to use a gender-integrated format or a gender-segregated format for basic training), and, as part of the examination, evaluate whether at the time of that decision, the Secretary of the military department with jurisdiction over that service had substantive reason to believe, or has since developed data to support, that gender-integrated basic training, or gender-segregated basic training, improves the readiness or performance of operational units.14

When the Army and Air Force decided in the late 1970s to adopt gender-integrated basic training, they had little or no past experience on which to draw. Those efforts were necessarily trial-and-error.

General Meyer's reasons for changing Army basic training back to a gender-separate format are noted above. The documentary record is extremely sketchy; however, his rationale is credible. The Commission heard from several experts in physiology and physical fitness, and all agreed that that there are substantial physiological differences between men and women, especially in the areas of strength and endurance.15 It is interesting to note that the British Army has just decided to change from gender-integrated back to gender-separate training platoons at its biggest training base, primarily because of concerns about women's high injury rates and low first-time pass rates.16

The Navy's decision to gender-integrate basic training in 1992 followed more than a decade of experience by other Services. The Navy also had some institutional experience with gender-integration since the first admission of women to the Naval Academy had occurred in 1976.17

The Army's decision to gender-integrate basic training in 1993 followed a test at Fort Jackson. The Army Research Institute (ARI) conducted a three-year study from 1993 to 1995. According to the ARI's 1995 report,

For the pilot study/test [in 1993], Fort Jackson selected a training battalion to gender-integrate to the squad level. They compared the training performance (scores on first-time-go rifle qualification, individual proficiency tests, and final physical fitness tests for push-ups, sit-ups and run times) of males and females in single-gender and gender-integrated companies. Fort Jackson found no differences in performance between males and females trained in single gender and gender-integrated companies. Fort Jackson recommended no change to the current system. The Commander, TRADOC then requested that ARI study the attitudes and opinions of soldiers and drill sergeants toward gender-integrated training.

The 1993 ARI study was conducted at a large training center and included soldiers-in-training from two battalions. In each battalion, there were all male, all female, and gender-integrated companies (integrated down to the squad level). Compared with single gender companies, training performance greatly improved for females in the gender-integrated companies, while training performance for males in the gender-integrated companies was slightly decreased.

The 1994 ARI study was conducted at a second training center [Fort Leonard Wood] with a battalion that was gender-integrated to the squad level. The training battalion used information from the 1993 study to "trouble shoot" the implementation of gender-integrated training and involved the training cadre in planning the program. The Program of Instruction (POI) was not changed to accommodate gender-integrated training nor were the standards for graduation altered. Both the males and females trained in gender-integrated companies in the 1994 study exceeded the performance of males and females in the 1993 study. [Emphasis added.]

Army representatives repeatedly cited the ARI study to the Commission as the scientific basis for the Army's conclusion that gender-integrated basic training is superior. In fact, after the 1993 ARI studies (the first of which had to be repeated to get the "right" results), the Army and ARI never again compared single-gender and gender-integrated training units. After the initial 1993 studies, the Army and ARI only tested gender-integrated units, as they were trying to determine the best male-female ratio for a unit. The 1994 and 1995 tests, to the extent they may have involved any comparison against single-gender units, used the results from the single-gender units in the 1993 test.

Furthermore, the Fort Leonard Wood test lasted from June to August 1994. In August 1994, before any results of that test could possibly have been tabulated or analyzed, the Army Chief of Staff announced that Army basic combat training would be gender-integrated effective 1 October 1994. In fact, gender-integrated basic training had already been put forward as part of a proposal, approved by Secretary Perry on 28 July 1994, describing how the Army would implement the new definition of "direct ground combat" then coming into effect.19

From these facts I conclude that the decision to gender-integrate Army basic training was made well before the ARI studies were completed and that the predetermined outcome may have affected the conduct and reporting of those studies.

We also heard repeatedly from "they-were-there" witnesses such as Generals Sullivan and Siegfried that the ARI studies demonstrated that the best ratio of men to women in basic training units was 75/25.20 In all gender-integrated Army training units that I observed or heard about, the ratio of men and women is, and is supposed to be, approximately 50/50. No one ever cited to the Commission any scientific study to support that ratio.

(D) Assess whether the concept of "training as you will fight" is a valid rationale for gender-integrated basic training or whether the training requirements and objectives for basic training are sufficiently different from those of operational units so that such concept, when balanced against other factors relating to basic training, might not be a sufficient rationale for gender-integrated basic training.

Only the Army specifically cited "train as you fight" as part of its rationale for gender-integrated basic training. This phrase originated in the 1970s as shorthand to describe Army doctrine that combat training should take place in as realistic a setting as practical. It is a misleading and over-used slogan when applied to gender-integration and basic training.

The Army, Navy and Air Force all cited variants of "train as you operate" as a rationale for gender-integrated basic training; however, "train as you operate" likewise is not a sufficient rationale for gender-integrated basic training. The purpose of basic training is not to teach tactics or job skills. It is to transform a civilian into a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine, who is able to wear a uniform, follow orders, observe proper customs and courtesies, and accept and live by the core values of the Service. "Train to transform" would be a more apt slogan.

(E) Identify the requirements unique to each service that could affect a decision by the Secretary concerned to adopt a gender-integrated or gender-segregated format for basic training and assess whether the format in use by each service has been successful in meeting those requirements.

The majority report cited several generic categories in which the Services are different: mission, tradition, size, force structure, rank distribution, gender composition, and positions open to women.21 Although the Services may have unique characteristics, basic trainees do not come in corresponding categories. Instead, they are young, they are civilians, some are men, and some are women.

Service-unique requirements do and should affect the content and conduct of basic training: The Navy properly emphasizes firefighting; the Army rightly focuses on rifle training. Official representatives of the Services have told the Commission, in testimony and in written submissions, that the Services are satisfied with the quality of graduates of their basic training programs.

Personnel in the operational forces are much more reserved in their enthusiasm. The Commission's survey asked service members to evaluate recent IET graduates. Large majorities say the quality of graduates has declined the past five years. Although today's graduates are thought to be smarter than those of five years ago, they are also considered (by large majorities of those surveyed) to be deficient in discipline, in their ability to adjust to military life, and in their ability to accept authority.22 During the Commission's operational visit discussions, I also heard many complaints about a certain passivity or lack of initiative among new graduates.

Throughout the ages elders have complained about the younger generation. But the comments of those who supervise trainees and new service members will ring true, I think, to most employers today. As a law office manager, lawyer, business owner and nonprofit leader, I have hired and supervised college-age workers over the past 25 years. They are different today, especially in terms of their independence, self-reliance and self-esteem.

The Services differ in their operational requirements, but the human element is fundamental and common to all. The decision whether to adopt a gender-integrated or gender-separate format for basic training should be based on the non-negotiable differences between men and women and the search for the best way to produce a good soldier, sailor, airman or Marine out of the raw material they have to work with.

(J) Review Department of Defense and military department efforts to objectively measure or evaluate the effectiveness of gender-integrated basic training, as compared to gender-segregated basic training, particularly with regard to the adequacy and scope of the efforts and with regard to the relevancy of findings to operational unit requirements, and determine whether the Department of Defense and the military departments are capable of measuring or evaluating the effectiveness of that training format objectively.

The Commission asked each Service in writing what, if any, objective measures they currently use to evaluate the effectiveness of their gender-integrated and gender-separate basic training. Each of the Services reported it has no current or planned efforts to study that issue.

The Army replied: "The Army studied this topic for three consecutive years and their [sic] is no empirical evidence to indicate that further study is required. Consequently, there are no ongoing studies that evaluate the effectiveness of gender-integrated and gender-separate Basic Combat Training (BCT)."

The Air Force stated: "The objective effectiveness of gender-integrated training is not directly measured in Basic Military Training (BMT). However, there are some related measurements [sexual harassment, Military Training Leader Survey on satisfaction with BMT graduates] that can provide useful insight."

The Navy and Marine Corps referred only to their standards for graduation for basic training and fleet satisfaction surveys, all of which are non-gender-specific.23

None of the Services (with the possible exception of the Marine Corps)24 would be in a position to conduct such studies, because none of the Services (except the Marine Corps) trains women separately. In the Navy and Air Force, all basic training is gender-integrated, even for the small number of sailors or airmen who will go into all-male occupations.

Because the Army, Navy and Air Force no longer maintain a training format that would provide a basis for comparison, I conclude that it is not possible for the Department of Defense or the Army, Navy or Air Force to measure or evaluate the effectiveness of their gender-integrated training format objectively.

Readiness Implications

(G) Identify the goals that each service has set forth in regard to readiness, in light of the gender-integrated or gender-segregated format that such service has adopted for basic training and whether that format contributes to the readiness of operational units.

The Commission asked each of the Services to provide a briefing on "readiness" with emphasis on personnel and training issues. In each case, the measure of readiness includes measures of personnel (how many? what qualifications?) and training (mission capable? how well qualified? how current?). Readiness is most often evaluated in terms of operating units; however, basic training provides trained personnel for operating units and thus must be considered a factor of military readiness.

The Army, Navy and Air Force have current and projected recruiting shortfalls. The Navy reported to the Commission that in FY98, the Navy's recruiting accessions were 7,000 short of goals, and further shortages are projected through May 1999.25The Air Force reported that it missed its recruiting goals two out of three months of the first quarter of FY99. Lower retention rates have made it necessary to increase recruiting goals by 1,000 this year. The Air Force cited "concern" over second term reenlistment rates in several categories of warfighting skills, and "major concern" over pilot retention, projecting a shortage of 2,000 pilots by the year 2002.26

Every day the newspaper headlines describe another tactic being used by one of those Services (advertising campaigns, cash bonuses, waivers for non-high school graduates). Only the Marine Corps is meeting its recruiting goals, and the Marine Corps does it without offering bonuses or accepting candidates it normally would not want.

It is fair to ask whether the Marine Corps' gender-separate training format may account, directly or indirectly, for its recruiting success. The Commission added questions to the YATS survey to determine attitudes of young people toward gender-integrated and gender-separate training. The overwhelming majority, even of those with a propensity to enlist, said they are indifferent about whether basic training would be with or without the opposite sex. Others were about evenly split between gender-integrated and gender-separate as a preference.27 This suggests that the Army, Navy and Air Force would suffer no loss (but might gain) in terms of recruiting if they decided to change, in whole or in part, from gender-integrated to gender-separate basic training.

(H) Assess the degree to which performance standards in basic training are based on military readiness.

Basic training performance standards must reflect a balance between personnel needs and training needs. Performance standards in basic training generally aim to produce a service member who is physically fit, who understands and accepts the service's organizational values, who knows and complies with the service's norms of behavior, and who is ready to receive further training.

The recruiting shortfalls noted above may exert a powerful temptation to recruit and graduate individuals who should not be allowed to become service members. In this regard, performance standards in basic training support readiness only when they are kept appropriately high and rigorously enforced.

(K) Compare the pattern of attrition in gender-integrated basic training units with the pattern of attrition in gender-segregated basic training units and assess the relevancy of the findings of such comparison.

The Final Report of the Commission will present detailed attrition data. In general, women leave the Services at all stages (basic training, first year, first term) at considerably higher rates than men. One can hypothesize all sorts of explanations; an obvious one is that young women of an age to serve in the military are also of child-bearing age, and they may reasonably decide they prefer a less demanding career when they are having and raising children.

Comparisons of attrition patterns between gender-integrated and gender-segregated units within each Service are impractical because of the lack of comparable groups in both formats.

(L) Compare the level of readiness and morale of gender-integrated basic training units with the level of readiness and morale of gender-segregated units, and assess the relevancy of the findings of such comparison and the implications, for readiness, of any differences found.

As noted above, "readiness" is a measure ordinarily not applied to basic training units. Concerning "morale," the Commission studied beginning and graduating recruits' attitudes conducive to unit cohesion and commitment, as well as military leader opinions on training and gender-related issues.28There are many interesting results from that study, which should be reviewed thoroughly and carefully.

For example, overwhelming majorities of leaders (NCOs and officers) agreed that the quality of recruit training has a direct effect on operational readiness. Among recruit trainers, however, substantial numbers (48 percent in the Army, 55 percent in the Navy, and 41 percent in the Air Force) said that the quality of basic training declines when men and women are in the same units.

The initial results of our surveys also show that Marine graduating recruits score significantly higher on measures of commitment, respect for authority and group identity than recruits in the other Services. Although one cannot draw conclusions from cross-service comparisons, these results suggest that the other Services could benefit from analyzing what allows the Marine Corps to achieve such success in basic training.

Comparative Studies

(M) Compare the experiences, policies, and practices of the armed forces of other industrialized nations regarding gender-integrated training with those of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

(N) Review, and take into consideration, the current practices, relevant studies, and private sector training concepts pertaining to gender-integrated training.

As noted above, the British Army has recently returned to gender-separate training at its major training base.29

The major lessons I drew from reviewing the practices of other countries and other sectors are these:

  • If you want to impose gender-neutral performance requirements, you must be prepared to accept that, in many military occupations, very few women will do as well or better than men.
  • Gender-separate training is a time-honored, proven, legitimate method of training. In the military and in other settings, it often produces better results, for women as well as men.
Feasibility and Implications of Proposals

(O) Assess the feasibility and implications of conducting basic training (or equivalent training) at the company level and below through separate units for male and female recruits, including the costs and other resource commitments required to implement and conduct basic training in such a manner and the implications for readiness and unit cohesion.

(P) Assess the feasibility and implications of requiring drill instructors for basic training unit to be of the same sex as the recruits in those units if the basic training were to be conducted as described in subparagraph (O).

The Army, Navy and Air Force provided their estimates of the costs and other resource commitments required to conduct basic training at the company level and below through separate units for male and female recruits.

In general I found the estimates unsupported and exaggerated.30 For example, I was extremely skeptical of the estimates for providing separate housing. A company of recruits is typically housed in a building, or a wing of a building. Converting an existing building for female occupancy should require not much more than plumbing changes. It seemed to me that, had the Services analyzed occupancy rates, they would have seen that new construction is unnecessary.

The latest General Accounting Office (GAO) report validated my views. The GAO concluded that the Services would not incur additional construction costs if they housed male and female recruits in separate barracks.31

The major drawback to separate training at the company level is that it would require the services to fill entire companies of female recruits at once. This would take considerable time and coordination because women enter the Services in much smaller numbers than men. Although it might be relatively practical in summer surge months, it could become very complicated and costly to set up all-female companies at other times of the year. Similarly it appears that requiring same-sex trainers for gender-separate companies would not be practical, because of sheer lack of numbers of female trainers and trainer-candidates available at this time.

These reservations would not apply, however, if the level of gender-separation were the platoon rather than the company. The Services effectively fill all-female platoons now, as they fill each sleeping bay in the barracks. Each service has a formal or informal policy of assigning female trainers to companies where there are mixed-sex platoons. Those trainers could be assigned to the specific all-female platoons.32

I agree with the recommendation of the Kassebaum Baker committee concerning same-sex platoons / divisions / flights in basic training. Attached to this statement is the portion of the December 1997 Kassebaum Baker committee report discussing that recommendation. Virtually every word still applies today.

Although the Army, Navy and Air Force have implemented almost every other recommendation from the Kassebaum Baker report, they inexplicably refuse even to try same-sex platoon / division / flight training. These Services should realize that they will continue to experience gender-related problems (or "challenges") as long as they pretend that "gender" is not a problem. Here are a few of the unnecessary, costly and distracting "challenges" still posed by gender-integrated basic training:

  • Confusion: Two or three platoons and at least six trainers "own" a single sleeping bay.
  • Inconvenience: Having the training unit living in multiple locations is inefficient. Time is wasted while the unit forms up. Messages go astray. The most useless waste of time I found in gender-integrated basic training is the policy that requires trainees to change clothes in the lavatory rather than in the open bay area. This is so that a trainer of the opposite sex may enter the bay at any time.33
  • Loss of Informal Contacts - Trainers must make special arrangements to gather their unit together. The informal footlocker talks of old now take place by appointment only, on neutral territory, with everyone's "battle buddy" present.
  • Stress: Trainers (already understaffed and overworked) must spread themselves even thinner when they work with a mixed male and female group. They must use different techniques to teach men and women; they must deal with a broader range of physical abilities - and all within a 24-hour day.
  • "No Talk, No Touch": Probably the most demanding duty of trainers is to prevent improper sexual contacts among recruits. This leads to "no talk, no touch" rules. My colleagues believe that "leadership" is the answer to this problem. I do not think it is possible to create mature judgment in 18 and 19 year olds within the time of basic training (seven to ten weeks), even if one exercised leadership nonstop. I believe the trainers who impose "no talk, no touch" rules are only trying to keep order the best way they reasonably can.
  • Loss of Discipline: In the basic training environment, rules need to be black and white. In a mixed-sex environment what is "sexual" and what is merely friendly is unclear. Discipline erodes when the rules are vague and ambiguous. Apparent double standards, even if justified, also break down discipline.

Successful basic training lays a foundation upon which the operational force can build. Advocates of gender-integrated training claim it will teach recruits proper judgment about dealing with the opposite sex. Good judgment, however, is a function of maturity and experience. Recruits need the foundation of discipline before they can acquire the skills and habits of good judgment. Separating male and female recruits in basic training units will assist them in learning discipline and self-control, the most valuable foundation on which to build maturity and judgment.

Attachment: Excerpt from Report of the Federal Advisory Committee on Gender-Integrated Training and Related Issues (Dec. 16, 1997) ("Kassebaum Baker Report"), pages 15-17.
Excerpt from Kassebaum Baker Report (December 1997)

At gender-integrated training installations, organize same-gender platoons, divisions, and flights and continue gender-integrated training above this unit level.

The Army, Navy, and Air Force conduct gender-integrated training in basic and advanced training. The Marine Corps conducts completely separate training in basic training, and integrates training in its follow-on 17-day program called Marine Combat training, as well as in advanced school.

The committee observed that, although the main aim of the Army, Navy, and Air Force's "train as we fight" doctrine is to instill teamwork and discipline, the present organizational structure in integrated basic training is resulting in less discipline, less unit cohesion, and more distraction from the training programs.

The most important unit in basic training is the operational training unit. This unit consists of about 60 trainees assigned to approximately three training instructors. Respectively for the Army, Navy, and Air Force, these are called platoons, divisions, and flights. They are the single most important unit in basic training for teaching team-building, unit cohesion, and discipline and are the units that are run by the Army's drill sergeants, the Navy's recruit division commanders, and the Air Force's military training instructors.

The committee observed that gender-integration at the operational training unit level is causing confusion and a less cohesive environment. Under the present system, recruits in the Army, Navy, and Air Force who are in gender-integrated operational training units are organized into "split" units. A portion of the female recruits housed in one sleeping bay and a portion of the male recruits from another sleeping bay make up a training unit, thus achieving a kind of gender-integration. The result has been a loss of cohesion in the sleeping bay, because they no longer form an operational training unit. Recruits, in all three services who are in gender-integrated operational training units, complain that they do not work as a team in the barracks because they are competing during inspections against the other portion of their sleeping bays who are in different training units.

In addition, this "split" training unit works against the goal of teaching male and female recruits how to work together from the beginning of their training. Because the trainers' main focus is to maintain discipline and, consequently, to keep males and females from breaking the rules, the trainers have seized on the simplest alternatives--a "no talk, no touch" doctrine which boils sexual harassment policy down to its lowest and most enforceable level. A buddy system is also enforced when male and female recruits interact. As a consequence, it is very difficult, if not at times impossible, for male and female recruits to work together in their own units. This exacerbates problems of coordination already encumbered by the physical separation. Training, consequently, is in fact more concurrent than truly integrated.

These "split" operational training units are also creating coordination challenges for trainers, who are already overworked and understaffed. Trainers no longer know their recruits as well as they did when training units remained together 24 hours a day. This erodes discipline. Trainers must also dedicate valuable time to policing male/female misconduct, taking away from training time. Rules and instructions are further confused because, recruits say, their trainer in the barracks may not be their trainer in their unit. This results in different standards being taught from those being rated.

In the Army and the Navy, the significant number of male recruits who are not in gender-integrated operational units are structured in units which sleep in the same bay and have the same three trainers around the clock. In the Navy, the all-male divisions usually win awards. This leads many male recruits in integrated divisions to conclude they are not winning awards because of females in the unit, not because of the structure. The Air Force has tried to deal with this problem by splitting all units, not just the ones with females assigned, so that no flight has an advantage. The committee observed that this approach, only recently initiated, has only compounded the problem.

The committee recommends that the Army, Navy, and Air Force organize all their operational training units by gender in platoons, divisions and flights. The committee believes this will recapture the cohesion, discipline, and team-building of living and training together as an operational unit. Specifically, the committee recommends that the Army integrate training starting at the company level, and that the Navy and Air Force integrate training by pairing male and female divisions and flights for field, technical, and academic training.

The committee recognizes that there will be some loss of training time together between males and females, including time spent marching together and eating together. However, because many trainers now insist their recruits refrain from talking to the opposite sex at all times, these periods of marching and eating together provide little in the way of meaningful integration. Therefore, the committee believes these losses will be minimal when compared to the gains in discipline and team building, two principal objectives of basic training. Integrated companies and pairings of divisions and flights will still provide ample opportunities for males and females to train together in the field and in classrooms, which is basically what they do now, without breaking the cohesion of the operational training unit. The professional level of the training will also be enhanced by the removal of the "no talk, no touch" policies. The committee does not believe this structural change will adversely affect female morale.

The committee observed impressive levels of confidence, team-building, and esprit de corps in the all-female training platoons at the Marine Corps Parris Island base. Female recruits in the other services were more divided as to whether their basic training was producing these outcomes. Regarding trainers, while the committee believes it is important to have at least one same-sex trainer assigned to each operational training unit, the committee underscores the importance of both male and female operational units having trainers of the opposite sex, given the importance of role models.

Basic training ranges from six weeks in the Air Force to nine weeks for the Army and Navy. This is a short period of time and presents formidable challenges for the training cadre. It should be organized in the best way possible in order to transmit military values and skills. Most recruits come into the service from integrated environments in school and at work, and the committee believes that separating recruits at the operational training level in basic training will not adversely affect the recruits' ability to work together. In fact, separating the recruits at the operational training unit level should provide a better environment for teaching military values, including professional relations.

Perhaps the biggest challenge presented by separate recruit training at the operational unit level is countering attitudes that training standards are different and ensuring that female recruits are instilled with a sense of equal accomplishment and are not driven constantly to prove that they really are Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, or Airmen. Consequently, the committee believes that male and female operational units must be educated about the other units' training, so that male recruits see that females accomplish the same goals as males. Training must be such that single-sex operational units witness one another accomplishing their training objectives. The committee specifically recommends that more concurrent training be phased in as the recruits progress through their basic training cycle. This would help prepare recruits' transition to gender-integrated advanced training.

End Notes: Introduction

1. Only the Marine Corps has continuous institutional experience with multiple models of gender-integration: Marine basic training units are all-male or all-female up to the battalion level. Marine Combat Training is gender-integrated above the platoon level, and Advanced Individual Tratining is fully gender-integrated. Other than Army combat tratining, all levels of training in the Army, Navy and Air Force are fully gender-integrated.

Endnotes: Basic Training Policies and Practices

1. See Commission's Statement and Status Report (17 Mar 1999) 32.
2. C. Johnson, Military Leader and Recruit Survey Concerning Basic Training and Gender-Related Issues (preliminary results; final report is forthcoming).
3. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was passed by Congress in 1971, but failed for lack of state ratifications in 1982.
4. One-Station Unit Training (OSUT) combines basic combat training (BCT) with advanced individual training (AIT) for some Army military occupational specialties (MOS).
5. Hearing Binder (21-22 Dec 98) Tab C-2. Gen. Meyer provided a written outline of testimony, but did not appear before the Commission. Gen Meyer's recollections of the reasons for changing back to gender-separate training are supported by contemporaneous news accounts and by research quoted in the report of the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces (15 Nov 92). See Prepared Testimony of Elaine Donnelly, Hearing Binder (28-30 Jan 99) Tab U, 5-6.
6. Transcripts (2 Dec 98) 4-58. See also Commission Hearing Binder (1-2 Dec 98) tab G.
7. Id. 4-5
8. Id. 19,II. 8-23. General Franks did not appear before the Commission.
9. Transcript (21 Dec 98) 183-272. See also Hearing Binder (21-22 Dec 98) Tab F.
10. Transcript (21 Dec 98) 184.
11. Id. 185.
12. Id. 186-187.
13. Id. 187.
14. For current rationales, see Commission's Statement and Status Report (Mar. 17, 1999) 33, n. 18 and Appendix E.
15. E.g., representatives from the U.S. Army Physical Fitness School, the Naval Health Research Center and the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine, as well as university researchers and expert consultants.
16. "A Squad of Their Own," Newsweek (Feb. 9, 1999) Periscope item. For the original story, see "Army hits the target with female units," London Sunday Times (Feb. 8, 1999) at
17. The Secretary of the Navy had ordered initial and follow-on "Navy Women's Study Groups" in 1987 and 1990. THese were not furnished to the Commission. Based on other references to these studies, they appear to have focused primarily on sexual harassment and job opportunity issues. See J. Scarpate and M. O'Neill, Evaluation of Gender Integration at Recruit Training Command Orlando Naval Training Center (Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, July 1992).
18. J. Mottern, D. Foster, E. Brady, The 1995 Gender Integration of Basic Combat Training Study (U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavorial and Social Studies, February 1997) 4-5.
19. Source: Army Response to Commission Data Call/Interrogatories.
20. E.g. Transcript (Gen. Sullivan) (2 Dec 98) 31, ll.3-15. "What the ARI study showed is if you get more than 25 percent women, then you start--the males start performing at a lower level. Now, why is that? I don't know. Males start behaving like--funny. Okay? I'm just going to leave it at that."
21. Commission Status Report 35.
22. See C. Johnson, Military Leader and Recruit Survey Concerning Basic Training and Gender-Related Issues; and L. Miller and G. Januscheitis, Content Analysis of Written Comments Provided on the Recruit Trainer Surveys (both forthcoming Commission-generated studies currently in draft form).
23. Sources for all comments are Services Responses to Commission Data Call/Interrogatories.
24. Only the Marine Corps has continuous institutional experience with multiple models of gender-integration: Marine basic training units are all-male or all-female up to the battalion level. Marine Combat Training is gender-integrated above the platoon level, and Advanced Individual Training is fully gender-integrated. Other than Army combat training (which is all-male), all levels of training in the Army, Navy and Air Force are fully gender-integrated.
25. Hearings (29 Jan 99) Navy handout.
26. Hearings (29 Jan 99) Air Force handout.
27. (Forthcoming research report.)
28. See C. Johnson, Military Leader and Recruit Survey Concerning Basic Training and Gender-Related Issues (forthcoming study).
29. See note 16 above.
30. To separate men and women at the company level, it is not necessary to create a gender leper colony, with a completely separate training base. On the other hand, the Navy's Great Lakes Training Center probably should be completely rebuilt: but because it is old, not because gender-separation would require it.
31. General Accounting Office, Military Housing: Costs of Separate Barracks for Male and Female Recruits in Basic Training (Mar 1999) 2.
32. There is, incidentally, no particular need to expose male recruits to female leadership. All will have grown up surrounded by women in authority; indeed, these days many will have grown up without fathers of other male authority figures.
33. "Changing rooms" are being added to barracks. Transcript (LTG Bolt) (28 Jan 99) 166, ll.8-10.


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