The Marine Corps' First Female Infantry Officer Will Command Her Own Platoon
Another day, another glass ceiling broken. On Thursday, The Marine Corps confirmed its first female infantry officer will soon be placed at the head of a platoon of infantry Marines, after she successfully completed the necessary training course. The woman has not been publicly identified yet, but she is the first woman to ever complete what is rumored to be one of the toughest — if not the toughest — training courses in the armed forces.
The female lieutenant is the first woman to complete the course, after 36 have previously tried and then not made it all the way through. The course lasts for 84 days and is full of grueling stretches of carrying loads up to 150 pounds through treacherous terrain, and other exercises meant to prepare a soldier for battle on the ground. The lieutenant has just completed the final graded section of the course, a three-week stint at the Marine base in Twentynine Palms, California. Now, there are only a few administrative matters to be taken care of between her and her graduation day, which will come on Sept. 25. Once she's graduated, she will be become the first female infantry officer in the Marines — a significant feat in both physical and mental stamina.
This would have been impossible even as recently as 2015, when the Marine Corps closed off the Infantry Officer Course to women after a trial period from 2012 to 2015 in which no women managed to make it through. At the end of 2015, the Pentagon under Barack Obama mandated that all jobs in the armed forces also be open to women. This, of course, did not mean that women would be given an easier road to get into these elite-level positions, though, and now it's taken almost two years for a woman to actually get through the grueling Infantry Officer Course. Overall, about a quarter of those who begin the IOC end up failing out of it — a statistic that only reinforces the impressive nature of this lieutenant's achievement.
That she made it this far in the Marines is also impressive, as this branch of the armed forces has been especially resistant to integrating women into the fold. While the culture has gradually become more and more open, this female lieutenant was likely fighting against some very deeply ingrained misogyny. Even other female Marines have spoken out against women joining the infantry, and it was the Marine Corps that faced backlash recently when it came to light that a group of its service members had been sharing numerous nude photos of their female colleagues.
The fact that a woman will now become an infantry officer in the Marines leaves few stones left unturned in terms of women joining the elite levels of the military. Army Capt. Kristen Griest, for example, became the Army's first female infantry officer in 2016, having completed the Army's Ranger School in 2015. No woman has yet met the requirements to be come a Navy SEAL or Army Green Beret, which are both elite special forces units.
The lieutenant who will become the Marine Corps' first infantry officer will face numerous challenges right off the bat. She'll have to earn her platoon's respect, which might be a difficult task. Ideally, she will also retain her anonymity, despite the interest that is already swirling around her achievement. The Washington Post reports that she's a "quiet professional" who is unlikely to agree to any media interviews, so it seems as though she's starting off on the right foot. Even if you don't know who she is, you can definitely still celebrate what she's achieved.