Lt. Georgia Jobusch lay in wait on the icypatched, brown-leafed terrain behind a makeshift blind of branches. Her face was camouflaged with green and black dye and her M-16 was aimed at a knoll 50 yards away.
Suddenly a squad of marine officers, including 23-year-old Lt. Bonita Joseph, charged over the knoll at her shrieking and firing their guns filled with blank ammunition. Georgia went into action, firing, unjamming her rifle, and firing again.
Gerogia and Bonita are part of a platoon of 22 female marine 2d lieutenants who were participating in four days of in-the-mud "squad assault" practice as part of a pilot program. For the first time, newly commissioned female marine officers are being trained in the field alongside male officers in patrolling, amphibious operations, the use of terrain, offensive and defensive weapons, and under-fire tactics.
As part of "Charlie Company" they will even take part in a three-day "war" during the 21-week course at Quantico Marine Base's TBS (The Basic School)
A majority of the 243 male officers in the Marine's first sexually integrated company seemed to approve of the women's presence. "I'm glad the marine who's typing my papers knows what the guy in the mud, like me, [WORD ILLEGIBLE] ng," said Lt. Charles Lamb, 23, of Houston, Tex.
What if she weren't typing, but was right in the mud with him?
"As long as she pull the trigger on this M-16 she can cover me anytime," Lamb said.
"We want 'em to make it," said Lt. Tim Lucey, 23, of St. Paul, Minn. "Too many people see this as our masculinity being threatened, but I don't think so."
"It makes things more interesting," said Lt. Robert Lindsey, 25, of Morgan City, La.
"And it certainly changed the language used," shouted someone from the back of the squad assembled on the top of a hill at the TBS training grounds.
Acceptance of the women's presence at the Marine's "war games" is not unanimous according to one Charlie Company male officer.
"We don't think the whole story's been told," said Lt. Joseph Kosewicz, 23, of Milwaukee, as two other male officers signaled their agreement. "No way they (the women) should be out here with us. Their bodies just can't take the punishment.
"Because of them, 25 per cent of our squad is walking wounded. The women are always straggling. How can you rely on someone who is always at the tail-end of your company,?" Kosewicz asked
"There are men stragglers too," company commander, Maj. Guy Pete, a 17-year Marine veteran, pointed out. Lt. Col. Edward M. Mockler, operations officer at TBS, said that the pilot program, begun Jan. 8, was the fruit of a reassessment initiated six months ago partly in response to queries from the women asking why they could not receive the full TBS training just as their male counterparts did.
"We begun to look at what we did here and we saw we were short-changing our own women. I guess we all started looking at reality." Mockler said.
According to Col. C. D. Dean, TBS commanding officer, the integration of the service academies at Annapolis and West Point also helped prompt the Marine Corps to see that "combined training would be productive."
The rationale for the program, Dean said, is to give the women officers a clearer understanding of the combat role so they can "provide the best support possible for the young man carrying the rifle."
"I am not suggesting that we should train our young ladies to lead a rifle platoon across a hostile shore," Major General P.X. Kelley, director of the Marine Corps Education Center at Quantico said recently, "but I am suggesting that I do foresee a vital role for them in a combat atmosphere."
The men who run TBS are wary of labeling the TBS course combat training, however, since Federal law prohibits women from participating in combat.
Congress would not like us to be spending money to train someone for something she isn't going to use or do," Mockler said.
The lieutenants at TBS are rated in large part on their "professional performance" and not simply on their physical endurance, Pete explained. "A woman may not run as fast and as hard as a man, but you can tell if she is putting forth her best effort," he said.
Six weeks into the program Pete said he has found that the women are competitive with the men. "I've seen evaluations from their peers and from their training officers and the women are not all rated high and not an rated low," he said.
"Gee, I feel like a women's libber," Pete reflected.
The only areas in which the criteria for women's achievenment differ from those of the men are in running, where the men must run 3 miles and the women 1 1/2 miles, and in an obstacle course in which the grades are weighted differently.
Pete says he's aware that some Marines are worried that the women's presence will "sissify" their macho-tough image.
"We owe it to the 243 males in Charlie Co. that we don't take away from the image of a Marine Corps lieutenant. This company is not doing any less physically than other companies and their morale is as good as any of the others I've seen," Pete said.
Lt. Jobusch who is from Tucson, Ariz., and who's been in the Marines since last Oct. 19, says she "still feels funny carrying a rifle," but that she's "gotten more tactical training in the last two days than in all my time in the Corps."
She said she'd rather not have the women in a separate platoon as they are now, but instead integrated among the five other all-male platoons in Charlie Co. "We women have been too long not pulling our weight in society and it's time we started," she added.
Although female Marine officers two years ago began receiving TBS training, which focuses on the skills. Their course was 11 weeks long, compared to the men's 26 weeks and it excluded major field operations and needed by rifle platoon commanders, they attended the school in all-female companies isolated from the men, marksmanship training.
At the end of TBS the men can go on to one of four specialized schools - infantry, artillery, tank, or air) as the final training stage before they are assigned to an operational Marine unit. It is this final stage which is still off-limits to female officers. Passage of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution could change all that, Col. Mockler said.