A female U.S. Marine on Monday became the first woman to complete the Corps’ notoriously rigorous training course for infantry officers.
Many women serve in the Marines and other branches of America’s armed forces but the woman, who has requested that her name not be released, is the first to make it through the Marine Corps’ 13-week infantry officer training course.
“I am proud of this officer and those in her class,” Marine Corps commandant General Robert Neller said. “Marines expect and rightfully deserve competent and capable leaders, and these [Infantry Officer Course] graduates met every training requirement as they prepare for the next challenge of leading infantry Marines; ultimately, in combat,” Neller added.
As an infantry officer, the woman, a lieutenant, will be assigned to lead a platoon of around 40 Marines. She will join the 1st Marine Division in Camp Pendleton, California, the Marines said. A total of 131 Marines started the infantry officer training course in July and 88 graduated on Monday in Quantico, Virginia, the Marine Corps said.
Three dozen female Marine Corps officers had previously signed up for the infantry training program but failed to finish, according to the Marine Corps Times.
On its Twitter feed, the Marine Corps released a video showing the woman taking part in exercises in the mountains alongside male infantry officer candidates.
Women make up about 15 percent of the nearly 1.4 million active duty troops in the U.S. armed forces. Former president Barack Obama opened up all military positions to women, including combat units, in March 2016.
Women were previously technically barred from combat, but thousands of American servicewomen saw fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq nonetheless.
The Marines have been seen as the branch of the U.S. military that has been the least accepting of women in combat roles and the infantry plays a special role in the lore of the Corps. Earlier this year, the Marine Corps was rocked by the revelation of a secret Facebook group called “Marines United” where nude pictures of female Marines were posted without their consent.
In 2015, two women became the first to graduate from the U.S. Army’s elite Ranger School. In July, a woman reportedly applied to become a member of the celebrated Navy SEALs but dropped out before completing the selection program.