In the category of woke that just won’t go away, the Marine Corps is taking time to fuzz up male-female distinctions. The warrior clan of A Few Good Men are struggling to adopt ways of addressing a few good women when aggregated with men. When most of us were growing up, saying “yes sir” and “yes ma’am” was a sign of respect. But those who are training our young men and women to be Marines are said to find the terms sir and ma’am way too confusing – threatening, even.
Ok, the subject is ripe for some good-natured mocking, but reading the explanation for why the “sir-ma’am” thing is an issue for Marine Corps boot camp trainers and drill sergeants reveals a deeper set of problems. It seems that the University of Pittsburgh did a two-year study on how best the Marine Corps can integrate women. Though not a finding of the report, underlying difficulties in creating integrated male-female combat units at boot camps result partially from a congressional mandate. In the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), legislators told the US Marine Corps it could not have separate boot camps for men and women: They must be integrated
Marines Following Congressional Mandate
As is often the case, the congressional language was devoid of explanation. “Sec. 565 Prohibition on Gender-Segregated Training at Marine Corps Recruit Depots, (a) Parris Island – (1) Prohibition. – Subject to paragraph (2), training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina, may not be segregated based on gender.” The language then gives the Marine Corps commandant five years to comply. Again, there was no explanation or reasoning as to why this would be a good idea. There was no pilot program or metrics to determine the desired outcome and what qualitative or quantitative data would determine if that outcome were achieved. It is another congressionally mandated social experiment the military leadership did not request.
Responding to direction, the Marine Corps did what you would expect – outsourced a study to inform its implementation of integrated boot camps. As Hope Hodge Seck explained in Marine Times:
“A new academic report on efforts to integrate Marine Corps boot camp recommends dropping gender-specific salutations for drill instructors, but service leaders are not convinced they want to take that step. The lengthy report, commissioned by the Corps from the University of Pittsburgh in 2020 and completed in 2022, points out that half of the military services already have done away with gendered identifiers for training staff.”
The report’s authors suggest that “Employing gender-neutral identifiers eliminates the possibility of misgendering drill instructors, which can unintentionally offend or cause discord.” The idea that soldiers, sailors, Marines, Guardians, and airmen live in a gender-neutral or agnostic world, unable to tell a female drill instructor from a male, is preposterous. The study’s authors believe that not using sir or ma’am will “underscore the importance of respecting authoritative figures regardless of gender,” Seck explains. When it comes to gaining respect, the hill to climb in Marine boot camp is the fact there are so few women in the Corps, to begin with, and having female drill instructors or trainers with actual bayonet-to-bayonet combat experience is rare. If the Marine Corps leadership believes adding the ambiguity of gender-nonspecific titles will mask battlefield inexperience, think again; recruits are not that naïve.
Combat Experience Provides Marines with Credibility
“The study also found that female Marine drill instructors were sometimes treated as less important than their male counterparts,” Fox News reported. “The authors suggested that getting rid of ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ in favor of the neutral ‘drill instructor’ would help balance such behavior.” In any profession, people are more likely to pay attention to mentors or trainers who have experience in the disciplines taught. With experience comes credibility, and credibility is a foundational attribute of leadership. Getting rid of sir and ma’am is not going to impart combat experience.
Researchers developing grand ideas at universities or think tanks have the luxury of knowing they will never suffer the consequences of their proposals. Nevertheless, the blowback from the notion the Marine Corps might be eliminating the formal honorifics of sir and ma’am came swiftly. “US Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), who served in the United States Army before becoming a politician, also slammed the proposal saying that ‘this type of toxic wokeness will make our military’s recruiting crisis worse,'” reports the UK-based Daily Express.
Since there are recruiting challenges for all the military services, it seems painfully apparent the Marine Corps recruit depots should focus on turning out highly skilled, combat-capable Marines. There is no rational or practical reason not to keep “Sir” and “Ma’am” as signs of respect. As Liberty Nation has pointed out in the past, woke won’t win wars.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
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