Last Updated on December 22, 2022

A 738-page academic report published by the University of Pittsburgh and commissioned by the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) has advised the USMC to no longer refer to drill instructors with the terms “ma’am” or “sir” in an effort to “de-emphasize gender.”

“The Army, Navy, and Coast Guard effectively de-emphasize gender in an integrated environment. 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,” the report stated.

The study was authored by Bradley C. Nindl (PhD) and Mita Lovalekar (PhD) from the University of Pittsburgh.

“Gendered identifiers prime recruits to think about or visually search for a drill instructor’s gender first, before their rank or role,” the report added.

The report was commissioned in 2020 by the USMC. Across all U.S. military service branches, the USMC has the smallest proportion of servicemembers who are female and also has been slow to integrate men and women into combined training and work units compared to the other branches.

Col. Howard Hall, chief of staff for Marine Corps Training and Education Command, told the Marine Corps Times that if changes were to be implemented, they would be slow coming.

“It’s not something we would change overnight. We’ve got a history of ‘sir, ma’am, sir, ma’am.’ If we change something at the root level, ho do we make the corresponding change at the Fleet Marine Force. So it’s not ours to implement alone,” Col. Hall said.

Col. Hall told the Marine Corps Times the topic was brought up in a December meeting held by the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services.

The study was part of a $2 million contract between the USMC and the Neuromuscular Research Laboratory and Warrior Human Performance Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh, of which co-principal investigator, Col. Bradley Nindl (USAR), is the director.

“Synthesis of the results of this study by a non-Defense Department entity will ensure that the findings of the study are unbiased and that actionable recommendations are grounded in evidence. Vetting of the findings through the peer-review process will further substantiate the rules,” Nindl said.

The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) mandated that gender-segregated training terminate within five years at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, and that gender-integrated training commence within eight years at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California.

“The US Marine Corps paid the University of Pittsburgh to tell them if they should make the USMC “Gender Neutral.’ The university said yes,” a Twitter user said on Wednesday.

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