JACKSONVILLE, N.C., Nov. 21 (UPI) -- Three enlisted women have for the first time passed the grueling Marine Corps infantry course but they won't be serving in combat units, military officials say.
The female Marines succeeded in carrying the same 85-pound packs on the same 12-mile marches as their fellow male soldiers, but Marine Corps leaders said they need another two years of study before deciding whether to use women in combat, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
The Pentagon's long-standing ban on putting women in combat units was lifted in January, but the Marines want to see many more women get through the course before making an evaluation.
Marine spokeswoman Maureen Krebs said, "Any force-wide changes to be made will occur only after we have conducted our research, determined the way ahead and set the conditions to implement our recommendations."
Some 15 women and 266 men began the course in September at Camp Geiger, N.C., and for two months endured long marches and obstacle courses and learned how to use grenades and avoid roadside bombs. Three women and 221 men were scheduled to graduate Thursday.
A fourth woman completed most of the course before suffering a stress fracture in a leg. Marine officials said she'll be allow to complete the training when she recovers.
The men will be immediately assigned to infantry units. The women will have to take other jobs.
Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said its unfair to keep the women out of infantry units because "they've met all the standards that are existing today."
Others say it would bad to integrate infantry units before there are any female officers to lead them.
"If you don't have any senior female leadership, it makes it hard," said Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R-Calif., a Marine combat veteran.
Change is apparently on the way. Some 40 female Marines started the enlisted infantry program in the past few weeks.