17% of male US Marines says they would leave if women move into combat roles

James AmosBy JULIE WATSON

Male Marines listed being falsely accused of sexual harassment or assault as a top concern in a survey about moving women into combat jobs, and thousands indicated the change could prompt them to leave the service altogether.

The anonymous online questionnaire by the Marine Corps surveyed 53,000 troops last summer, with the results provided to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta before he opened thousands of combat positions to women last week.

The Marine Corps released the results to The Associated Press on Friday. Among the other top concerns listed by male Marines were possible fraternization and preferential treatment of some Marines.

Respondents also worried that women would be limited because of pregnancy or personal issues that could affect a unit before it’s sent to the battlefield.

Military experts said the results were not surprising because the Marines have the highest percentage of males among the branches of the armed forces.

Former Marine infantry officer Greg Jacob of the Service Women’s Action Network said the Pentagon’s estimate that 86 percent of assault victims opt against filing complaints “suggests that there’s hardly an overabundance of reports, false or otherwise.”

About 17 percent of male Marine respondents and 4 percent of female respondents who planned to stay in the service or were undecided said they would likely leave if women move into combat positions. That number jumped to 22 percent for male Marines and 17 percent for female Marines if women are assigned involuntarily to those jobs, according to the survey.

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