Marine Commandant On Female Infantry: ‘You’re A Marine, Do Your Job’

Bullet Points
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller speaks to Marines during a town hall in Shorab, Afghanistan, June 28, 2018. Gen. Neller spoke about his latest message to the force “Execute” and answered questions.
Sgt. Olivia G. Ortiz/US Marine Corps

With women slowly trickling into Marine Corps combat arms positions, Commandant Gen. Robert Neller has a simple message on the matter: Just do your damn job.


  • "You have to be qualified," Neller told Marine Corps Times on Wednesday when asked about the gender integration in occupational specialties previously closed to women. "You're a Marine, do your job."
  • There are just 27 female Marines serving in infantry military occupational specialties, a spokeswoman for the Corps' Manpower and Reserve Affairs confirmed to Task & Purpose on Friday. The breakdown is one officer, and 26 enlisted Marines.

  • When asked about the relatively slow pace of integration compared to the Army (where, Marine Corps Times notes, nearly 800 women are serving in previously-closed combat arms jobs compared to the Corps), Neller was unsurprised.
  • “I didn’t think there would be a lot and the numbers we’ve gotten so far are small," Neller told reporters, adding that when it comes to boosting female candidates for to combat arms jobs. “We don’t go out there to recruit anybody."
  • This is an unsurprising mindset. "The Corps, while not immune from some of the racial and discriminatory issues facing the nation, generally sees its members as only one thing: Marines," as Marine combat vets Mariko & Caesar Kalinowski IV recently wrote in Task & Purpose. "To the Marines, personal attributes or preferences always take a backseat to the needs of the Corps."
  • Neller's comment came weeks after Secretary of Defense Mattis told reporters that the "jury was out" on the effectiveness of female infantry.
  • "The military has got to have officers who look at this with a great deal of objectivity and at the same time remember our natural inclination to have this open to all,” he said. “But we cannot do something that militarily doesn’t make sense.”

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Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

We are women veterans who have served in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. Our service – as aviators, ship drivers, intelligence analysts, engineers, professors, and diplomats — spans decades. We have served in times of peace and war, separated from our families and loved ones. We are proud of our accomplishments, particularly as many were earned while immersed in a military culture that often ignores and demeans women's contributions. We are veterans.

Yet we recognize that as we grew as leaders over time, we often failed to challenge or even question this culture. It took decades for us to recognize that our individual successes came despite this culture and the damage it caused us and the women who follow in our footsteps. The easier course has always been to tolerate insulting, discriminatory, and harmful behavior toward women veterans and service members and to cling to the idea that 'a few bad apples' do not reflect the attitudes of the whole.

Recent allegations that Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie allegedly sought to intentionally discredit a female veteran who reported a sexual assault at a VA medical center allow no such pretense.

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