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Female Marines Train at Historically All-Male Base

Courtney Cameron

Last week, the Marine Corps marked 100 years of women in service, and celebrated the occasion (unofficially) with a series of groundbreaking events staged over the past 12 months. The Orange County Register provided a rundown of the year’s notable firsts:

September 2017 — Lt. Maria Hierl graduated from the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course, reporting to the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton. Hierl recently deployed with the 2nd Battalion/4th Marines in support of Marine Rotational Force Darwin, becoming the first female infantry officer and platoon commander in Australia.

October 2017 — 2nd Lt. Mariah Klenke became the first female Marine to graduate from the Assault Amphibian Officer Course and was assigned to Camp Pendleton’s 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion.

March 2018 — Camp Pendleton’s School of Infantry West opened its combat training battalion to women, allowing female Marines to train alongside men for the first time in history. Female Marines have traditionally trained at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C.

June 2018 — Lt. Col. Michelle Macander became the first woman to lead a ground combat arms unit, taking command of the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion at Camp Pendleton.

July 2018 — Pfc. Sara Durst finishing at the top of her class at Camp Pendleton and was recognized as her company’s honor graduate, beating out 326 male and female students in the Marine Combat Training Battalion.

Today’s graduating female marines must complete the full combat course, including basic combat training, patrol and convoy, marksmanship using grenades and launchers, and up to 15-kilometer hikes over rough terrain while weighted down with gear packs. Of the 469 women who initiated the integrated training at Camp Pendleton, 406 have graduated.

Now, according to The Orange County Register, roughly 8 percent Camp Pendleton’s 50,000-member 1st Marine Expeditionary Force are women. Of the approximately 4,000 women on base, 332 serve at the 1st Marine Division and 40 are serving in previously-restricted combat jobs, including machine gunner, mortarman and field artillery cannoneer. Marine Corps-wide, 15,885 of the 184,473 service members are women, with 80 serving in combat roles.

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