NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A female U.S. Marine has become the first woman to complete the Corps’ notoriously grueling infantry officer course, seeing off dozens of male candidates who failed the selection training.
The physical and mental tests include hikes carrying loads up to 152 pounds (69 kg), swimming, obstacle courses, land navigation and weapons assembly. Typically a quarter of Marines who take part fail to make the grade.
Under former President Barack Obama, the U.S. military opened all positions to women, including combat roles, for the first time in 2016 in a bid to make the armed forces more inclusive.
The female lieutenant, who wanted to keep her identity private, was one of 88 Marines out of 131 who started the course in July to make it through the 13-week program - graduating in Quantico, Virginia, on Monday, the military said.
“Proud of this officer & her fellow leaders,” tweeted Marine Corps commandant Gen. Robert Neller alongside a photo of the woman during training.
The Marine Corps says its “grueling 13-week course trains and educates newly selected infantry and ground intelligence officers in leadership, infantry skills, and character required to serve as infantry platoon commanders”.
The lieutenant’s next assignment will be at the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton in California, it said.
As an officer she is expected to lead a platoon of typically around 40 Marines.
“Marines expect and rightfully deserve competent and capable leaders, and these... graduates met every training requirement,” Neller said in a statement.
About 15 percent of more than 1.3 million U.S. active duty troops are women, according to the Department of Defense.
Earlier this year, the Corps was rattled by nude photo sharing scandal involving a private Facebook group and its surreptitious distribution of explicit images of women in the armed forces, often with obscene, misogynist commentary. [nL1N1I8024]
Writing by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org