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Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

Women Marine Instructors Contribute to MCT (West) Mission

By Nancy York | | May 10, 2003

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Can women make a significant contribution to achieving the mission of the Marine Combat Training Battalion? This was the question put to a guest speaker, LtCol David A. Bethel, at a Women Marines Association chapter luncheon meeting May 10.

Bethel is well qualified to answer this question since he is currently serving as the commanding officer of Marine Combat Training Battalion (West) at the School of Infantry aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. He was ably assisted in his presentation by his sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. Aaron Banks, 3 women Marine combat instructors, Sgt. Sandra Little, Sgt. Jamie Castenada and Cpl. Eva Lael, and an officer with the base Public Affairs Office, 1st Lt. Sarah Kansteiner.

MCT's mission is to train all non-infantry, entry-level Marines in the infantry skills required to operate in a combat environment. As the war in Iraq has demonstrated, there is no safe rear area when Marines go into combat.

MCT (West) trains approximately 12,000 young male Marines every year. Woman Marine students are only taught at MCT (East) located at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.

All students receive the same instruction in 53 different entry-level infantry tasks, including the use of various weapons, how to operate in environments contaminated by nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, military operations in an urban area, and proper handling of prisoners of war.

The program is 22 days long and employs approximately 90 Marine instructors. Three of these instructors are currently women Marines. There are no restrictions on what classes female instructors can teach. However, some subjects are still only taught by men due to their level of experience and qualifications. It is expected that women Marines will eventually have the credentials to teach the entire curriculum.

While women Marines have served as combat instructors at MCT (East) for years, the School of Infantry at Camp Pendleton has, until recently, been an all-male bastion. It was realized that this situation shortchanged the students by not exposing them to women Marines in troop leading and other leadership positions. While Marines needed to be tough, rugged, confident and full of vinegar, they also needed to be aware that women Marines served in leadership positions in Combat Support and Combat Service Support.

The woman Marine Combat Instructors at MCT (West) have been extremely successful. They have held their own with their male counterparts, and can deliver lectures just as well as many of their male counterparts.

Because the women Marines have been treated as professionals by the male instructors and other support personnel, the entry level male Marine students have shown a good attitude towards the female instructors.

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