An academic report commissioned by the United States Marines urged Marines to stop calling their drill instructors “sir” and “ma’am” to avoid “misgendering” the instructors.
The 739-page report from the University of Pittsburgh — which was catalyzed by a new congressional mandate —featured PhD biologists Bradley C. Nindl and Mita Lovalekar heading a team of 22 academics telling Marines they should address their instructors by their last names.
“Replace gendered identifiers (e.g., ‘sir,’ ‘ma’am’) in the primary salutation or response to drill instructors with gendered neutral language such as ‘drill instructor,’ ‘senior drill instructor,’ ‘senior,’ ‘DI,’ or ‘SDI,’” the report states.
“Employing gender-neutral identifiers eliminates the possibility of misgendering drill instructors, which can unintentionally offend or cause discord,” the report continues. “By teaching recruits to use gender-neutral identifiers for their drill instructors, Services underscore the importance of respecting authoritative figures regardless of gender.”
The recommends suggest a de-emphasizing of gender throughout the military.
“The Army, Navy, and Coast Guard effectively de-emphasize gender in an integrated environment,” the report asserts. “Instead of saying ‘ma’am’ or ‘sir,’ recruits in these Services refer to their drill instructors using their ranks or roles followed by their last names. Gendered identifiers prime recruits to think about or visually search for a drill instructor’s gender first, before their rank or role.”
“That’s going to take some effort,” Col. Howard Hall, chief of staff for Marine Corps Training and Education Command, told Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services. “Honestly, that’s not a quick fix. What are inculcating in our young recruits that will or will not be reinforced when they graduate and enter the fleet Marine force? So again, we want to avoid any quick-fix solutions that introduce perturbations down the line.”
The study from the University of Pittsburgh also examined a 13-week boot camp training cycle of a gender-integrated company at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, and a male-only recruit company at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. The study found that roughly twice the number of women suffered injuries as men.
“As the Marine Corps considers options for optimizing gender integration, recruit performance and injury data from this study suggest an opportunity to revise the training structure to be more scientifically and physiologically sound to enhance performance, reduce injury, and improve retention during the training process,” the study suggested.
The Marine Corps was mandated by the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act to stop separating trainees by gender at Marine Corps Recruit Depots.