Female Marines Ground Combat Integrated Task Force
Sgt. Margarita B. Valenzuela, rifleman with 1st Platoon, Company A, Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, engages known-distance targets with the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle from the standing position during a three-day field exercise at the Verona Loop training area on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Dec. 3, 2014. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alicia R. Leaders/Released)

The U.S. Marines’ Ground Combat Integrated Task Force is designed to assess the physical performance of Marines via a simulated operating environment.

The GCITF, which runs from October 2014 to July 2015 and includes female Marines, is already serving its purpose in addressing potential problems, according to Marine Corps Times.

The regulation hair buns of the female Marines would cause their Kevlar helmets to slide forward over their eyes and prevent them from maintaining good visibility on targets through their rifle sights in the prone position. When the trouble persisted, female noncomissioned officers with the platoon met for an hour-long brainstorming session with the unit’s male leaders. They emerged with a solution: women with the platoon would wear French braids, allowing them to stay neat and professional while keeping their helmets in place.

Training is just beginning at the task force, where up to a quarter of the 600-strong unit will be made up of female volunteers filling ground combat roles that remain closed to women in the fleet. Sometime in February, they’ll “deploy” as a unit to Twentynine Palms, Camp Pendleton, and Bridgeport, Calif., to embark on a battery of assessments designed to determine actual physical requirements for closed military occupational specialties and improve the existing training and readiness standards for each job.

“The upper body strength of being able to employ an M203 [grenade launcher],” was one early challenge, Staff Sgt. Jamil Alkattan, platoon sergeant for Alpha company’s provisional rifle platoon, told Marine Corps Times. “When they first began to employ an M203, I thought we would never get past that. And now they’re very effective. Really, that’s all there is, is getting out there and doing it.”

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