Closing the book on a Pentagon review of basic training, Defense Secretary William Cohen was recommending Monday that men and women live in strictly separate barracks but undergo rigorous boot camp together except for in the Marine Corps, a senior Pentagon official said.
Cohen, in accepting reports on how to improve basic training, concluded that each branch of the military should decide for itself the best way to prepare America's fighting forces for the field, said the official. Now, only the Air Force, Army and Navy train men and women together at the basic boot camp level and want to continue to do so."He's going to recommend that the services continue to have the flexibility to design training as they see best," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Cohen had indicated in March that he didn't plan to accept a key recommendation by a panel headed by former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker, R-Kan., to separate men and women in the most elemental units of training. At the same time, the Pentagon chief accepted nearly all of the other 30 recommendations contained in the December report, including separate housing for men and women during basic and advanced training.
In adopting those recommendations, Cohen ordered the services to do a better job of making sure men and women are adequately controlled and supervised while in separate barracks, to come up with ways to make the job of training the nation's military recruits more attractive and to incorporate more rigorous physical training into their programs.
Cohen was accepting the services' reports with improvements this afternoon at the Pentagon, ending a review of basic training that began after a series of sex scandals involving trainees and drill instructors, including at Aberdeen Training Ground, Md.
The defense secretary had complained that even though male and female trainees were living in separate quarters or on separate floors, doors had been removed at some sites and privacy was inadequate.
"They have not had adequate supervision. . . . There has been an attitude of a lack of discipline. And so what we want to do is maintain the separation during those first weeks of basic training to make sure their focus is on the military aspects and not the social," Cohen said in ordering stricter separation standards.
The secretary also told the three services to put more emphasis on "core military values" during their first weeks in the military.
The services must increase the number of female recruiters and female trainers; improve selection processes for trainers and counter any notion that a training assignment would be detrimental to a military career, Cohen said.
The services must also develop rewards and incentives to make working as a trainer more of a step to advancement in a military career, the secretary said.
The Air Force, Army and Navy had argued that keeping men and women apart for the first six weeks of early training would not prepare them for the real world of the military, where women are now on warships and flying combat aircraft. Some 14 percent of the military is female.