The Washington Post reported Thursday that for the first time in United States Marine Corps history a female lieutenant is expected to graduate next week from the Infantry Officer Course and go on to lead an infantry platoon.
The woman, who was not named by the Marine Corps, is the first female to complete the intense training in Twentynine Palms, Calif., since 2012 when the course was open to women, at first as an experiment, according to the Post.
The accomplishment is another in a series of hard-fought-for firsts for women in the Marine Corps, which has generally resisted social change and has taken particular issue with the Obama administration’s decision to open all military roles to qualified women.
In response, the Corps changed the parameters of its physical standards for combat jobs, creating a separate gender-neutral test with more challenging requirements for anyone seeking those roles.
Last month, The Marine Corps Times published a report, citing data from the Corps’ Training and Education Command, that found few women have been choosing to train for ground combat jobs since the option was made open to them earlier this year and that three out of four women training at Parris Island for those jobs have been failing the physical standards test.
Pfc. Maria Daume, one of four women to graduate boot camp in January 2016 with an infantry contract in hand, was also among the first women to graduate from the School of Infantry at Camp Geiger in North Carolina through the traditional process this past March.
She trained as a mortarwoman and was often at the top of her class, according to an interview with one of her trainers in Voice of America.
Daume told VOA that she likes to prove people wrong about women in infantry roles.
“No matter what your belief is, you can’t argue that I didn’t do it, because I did,” VOA reported her as saying.
Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of women being allowed to serve in the United States Marine Corps.
Challenges, though, remain for women seeking ground combat jobs in the Marines.
Earlier this year, the Corps found itself at the center of the “Marines United” Facebook photo-sharing scandal, in which tens of thousands of active and retired members of the armed forces belonged to a page where sexually suggestive and nude photos of female servicemembers were posted. The photos were often taken or posted without the women’s permission, and comments on the page were often misogynistic or sexually violent.
In its story about the first female woman to graduate from Infantry Officer Course, the Post touched upon the scandal.
“Gen. Robert B. Neller, the service’s top officer, has pleaded with Marines to be respectful toward women in the ranks, highlighting that some have died in combat. ‘I need you to ask yourselves,’ he said at the time, ‘How much more do the females of our corps have to do to be accepted?,’” the newspaper reported.