Marine infantry and special operations specialties forces will soon open to women female warriors, if the head of the Navy Department gets his way.

As deadlines loom on decisions about whether to allow women into front-line combat jobs, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus called for opening opening all billets to female troops women who can meet the rigorous standards, to include corpsmen who patrol with Marine ground combat units. decisions t front-line combat jobs to As the Navy department's deadline looms to request exemptions for women in ground combat roles, the Navy and Marine Corps' civilian leader is reiterating his commitment to opening all billets to women in 2016.

Marine Corps officials will soon offer their recommendations, but Mabus, the civilian secretary who leads the Navy Department — including the Marine Corps — , made clear that he must sign off on the decision to seek any exemptions to opening all jobs to women allowing women into these units, and he hasn't had a change of heart.he told Navy Times in an exclusive interview Sept. 1,

"That's still my call, and I've been very public," Mabus said in an exclusive Sept. 1 interview. "I do not see a reason for an exemption."

Mabus said both sea services the Corps should keep That opinion includes keeping physical standards unchangedtied to each job as they are, he added. is he saying unchanged or gender neutral, but still tough?/sf

His Mabus' call for opening all military occupational specialties Marine jobs to women follows that Following Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert's assertion in late August that the Navy would not seek an exemption for its legendary SEAL teams., Mabus is the first department official to confirm that the Marine Corps is headed toward opening all ground combat jobs to women.

All of the services have until Oct. 1 to submit their exemption requests to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, and the Marine Corps has not indicated signaled whether it intends to do so. so there is still time for the Marine Corps to make its case. Mabus, however, signaled that his mind was largely made up.

"My understanding of how the process works is that I'm the one that asks [the Defense Department] for the exemption," he said. "Now, other voices will be heard, the way [former Defense] Secretary [Leon] Panetta lined it up — I think, the way I read it — is that if the [Navy] Department doesn't ask for an exemption, they will open."

Marines with the Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force participate in assessments at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. The task force was evaluating the integration of female Marines into artillery, infantry and mechanized military occupational specialties this summer.

Photo Credit: Mike Morones/Staff

While Mabus will have has the last say for the Marine Corps' own billets, but as with the Navy SEALs, U.S. Special Operations Command must also sign off on the will be able to seek an exemption for the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command troops it oversees, as with the Navy SEALs. If SOCOM it does not seek an exemption, MARSOC and SEAL teams will open to women on Jan. 1, 2016, along with any other jobs still closed to women.

Marine brass have stayed tight lipped about whether they'll seek gender exclusions. neutral on the subject thus far. In a July hearing for his confirmation as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford did not let on whether a decision was in-hand.

"We have looked at this issue pretty hard," he told the Senate committee. "I expect the data that we've collected over the past 18 months in a very deliberate, responsible way to be available to me in the August-September timeframe. And we'll meet the timeline established by Secretary [Leon] Panetta and General [Martin] Dempsey in the letter from 2012."

Dunford is on track to send his recommendations to Mabus in the next few weeks, his spokesman Lt. Col. Eric Dent told Marine Corps Times in late August.

Though Dunford is scheduled to assume the top Joint Chiefs role next month, multiple officials said Dunford plans to make the recommendations regarding women in combat roles before Gen. (sel.) Robert Neller takes over as commandant.

Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.

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