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Women in combat? Many Marines in survey say they'll leave

| Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, 7:34 p.m.
An Israeli female soldier sits on top of an armored personnel carrier during a military exercise in the Israeli-controlled part of the Golan Heights. Israeli women are subject to the draft, serving two years while men serve three. But women were barred from direct combat until 2000, when the first and so far only mixed gender infantry battalion was organized.

SAN DIEGO — A Marine Corps survey found about 17 percent of male Marine respondents who planned to stay in the service or were undecided said they would likely leave if women move into combat positions.

That number jumped to 22 percent if women are assigned involuntarily to those jobs, according to the survey.

Listed among the top concerns by male Marines about the policy change were fears about being falsely accused of sexual harassment or assault, fraternization, and preferential treatment of some Marines.

Respondents also worried that women would be limited because of pregnancy or personal issues that could affect a unit before it's sent to the battlefield.

The results of the survey of 53,000 Marines were released on Friday to The Associated Press.

The survey was conducted from May 30 to Aug. 31. The results were given to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta before he opened thousands of combat jobs last week to female service members.

“I think there is this sense among what I would imagine is a very small minority of Marines that this male bastion is under siege and this is one more example of political correctness,” said David J. R. Frakt, a military law expert and lieutenant colonel in the Air Force reserves. He also is a visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

But he said just as the Marine Corps adjusted to the end of “don't ask, don't tell” despite being the most resistant of the military branches, troops will likely fall in line again with this historical milestone.

Both sexes surveyed mentioned intimate relationships between Marines and feeling obligated to protect female Marines among their top five concerns about allowing women into ground combat jobs.

Top concerns of women Marines included the targeting of women as POWs, the risk of sexual harassment or assault, and hygiene facilities, according to the results that did not give specifics.

The women also said they worry about acceptance and physical abilities if given a full-time ground combat job.

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