Hagel talks to female Marines during tour of Lejeune

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Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is escorted by Sgt. Seth Fisher on Camp Geiger.

Chuck Beckley/Halifax Media
Published: Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 05:16 PM.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel held a closed discussion with female Marines on what their military experience has been like during a visit Wednesday to Camp Lejeune.

Hagel took a tour of an urban warfare training facility aboard Camp Geiger as 183 students from the School of Infantry East demonstrated tactics, techniques and procedures.

After the training, Hagel met with more than a dozen female Marines of various ranks for a closed discussion on the opening of combat roles to women. The group also talked about the sexual assault and sexual harassment problem military branches are facing, said a female Marine who participated. The female Marines were given anonymity to facilitate an open and honest conversation, according to military officials.

“He wanted to hear exactly what female Marines thought,” the female Marine said. “My personal opinion is that (integration) is moving too fast … this is a great opportunity, but a standard must be set that everyone has to meet … moving too quickly is going to cause harm.”

On June 18, the individual branches of the armed forces released their implementation plans for integrating women into combat roles that are presently off limits. The Marine Corps has identified 70,000 billets that were closed to the assignment of women due to the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule. The deadline for implementation is Jan. 1, 2016.

Holly Wingler, a female Marine veteran of Iraq who did not attend Wednesday’s discussion, said women in combat is the worst decision the military could make.

“Women can do it, but it doesn’t mean they should,” said Wingler, a former combat engineer. “Human nature is for a man to protect a female. I see that causing a problem with mission accomplishment.”

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