What’s in a name? Plenty, says the Marine Corps.
Nineteen of the service’s job specialty names will be changed to reflect gender-neutral titles.
Within the next few days, the Corps is expected to issue a mandate to remove “man” from Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) job titles such as “Infantry Assault Man” and “Basic Infantryman,” and to replace gender-specific endings with “Marine.” Some job titles, such as “Rifleman” and “Mortarman,” will remain in place.
The change comes in the wake of a months-long review mandated by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who also oversees the Marine Corps. Mabus requested the review in January, after the Defense Department opened all military jobs to women.
“Please review the position titles throughout the Marine Corps and ensure that they are gender-integrated as well, removing ‘man’ from the titles,” Mabus wrote in January to the Marine Corps Commandant, Gen. Robert Neller.
The change has prompted a range of responses from the military community.
Some see no point in creating what they view as a non-issue.
“We’re doing a lot of things in the military in general that are absolutely a waste of time,” a Navy admiral tells PEOPLE. (The admiral is on active duty and cannot speak to the press for attribution.) “You don’t see anyone on street corners with signs saying, ‘I’m tired of having a rating with ‘man’ in the title. ”
Former Air Force anti-terrorism team leader Liesl Mote, who served as a captain while a special agent in the Office of Special Investigations, agrees.
“The bottom line for me is, I don’t care what you call me,” Mote says. “These women like those men want to do their jobs and do them well without all of the bureaucrats getting in our space about a freaking word on a piece of paper. All I am concerned about is my boots on the ground.”
“I think you will find that women and men don’t have monolithic, gender-based opinions on the issue of semantics or integration, and that is a good thing,” says West Point graduate Paula Broadwell, who runs the Think Broader Foundation, a non-profit focused on how gender is represented in the media and society. “Diversity of opinions challenges each of us think more broadly about these important issues.”
The MOS name changes are important, Broadwell notes, because she believes they contribute toward setting a tone where women are viewed not as objects, but as equals. “In that regard,” Broadwell says, “making micro changes in semantics is a critical step towards holistic integration.
Some, however, view the changes as signs of a degraded military.
The services overall have been weakened by “empty platitudes and concessions to political correctness run amuck,” says Commander Dan O’Shea, a retired Navy SEAL and OEF/OIF veteran.
“Can SECNAV Mabus answer how further emasculating the Navy and Marine Corps by removing ‘man’ from every job title increases the combat mentality and lethality of our military?” O’Shea says. “Continuing to push a ‘macho’ warrior culture and ethos out of the service will only result in driving out those who joined to go to war and not for the GI Bill, VA benefits or false praise like a medal for finishing boot camp or an unearned ‘neutered’ title.”
Others have mixed views.
“The Marine Corps has a very sound, vibrant, culture,” says former Marine Angie Morgan. “There are many opportunities for women to succeed in the organization. If, by renaming MOS s, this attracts more qualified women because they see the range of opportunities available to them, then I think it s great.”
However, Morgan adds, “I don t see a need to change (the long-used mantra) Every Marine is a rifleman. It s part of our organizational identity. I never took issue with viewing myself as a rifleman. I joined the Marine Corps. I knew what I was getting into. ”
But others believe that the Rifleman title should be changed, as well.
“The fact that the word ‘man’ in this MOS title was not removed, is on purpose, and an insult to the Marines who happen to be women who will serve as ‘Riflemen,’ ” says Shelly Burgoyne, a former Army officer who served as a combat resupply convoy commander during two tours in Iraq. “Rifle Marine is more fitting.”
One active duty Marine is nonplussed by the entire discussion.
“At the end of the day, my fellow brothers and sisters are all Marines, regardless of what the MOS is called,” says Joel Weber, a Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) Master Gunnery Sergeant who spoke to PEOPLE on his off-duty hours.
The Marine Corps, meanwhile, is neither confirming nor denying the forthcoming announcement. The service has not yet announced the changes because the official document mandating the changes has not been signed, a Marine Corps official tells PEOPLE.
Noting published reports on the announcement, though, the official says: “There is no inaccuracy in what has been reported.”