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‘She’s one of us’: Lieutenant becomes 1st female Marine combat platoon commander

03 Sep 2018 11:54 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


As the Marine Corps prepares to celebrate the 100th anniversary  of women in its 

service on Monday, there is one female Marine continuing to shatter the glass 

ceiling.


Last September, First Lt. Marina A. Hierl became the first woman to graduate from the I

infantry Officer Course at Quantico, Virginia, a demanding 13-week program 

Marines are required to complete before leading an infantry platoon.At the time of 

her graduation, Hierl wished to remain anonymous. But nearly one year later, 

the New York Times was granted access to follow Hierl as she made history 

commanding an infantry platoon of roughly 35 male Marines during training 

exercises in northern Australia.

At boot camp, Marine Corps working to integrate training in the #MeToo era

'She's one of us'

Hierl, 24, grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and worked on a horse farm, before 

attending the University of Southern California, the New York Times reported."I 

wanted to do something important with my life," she told the paper about her 

desire to join the Marines. "I wanted to be part of a group of people that would 

be willing to die for each other."


PHOTO: Marines participate in an exercise during the Infantry Officer Course at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Sept. 18, 2017.


After learning in 2013 that then-defense secretary Leon Panetta had lifted the ban 

on women in combat roles, Hierl told the Times that she knew she wanted to 

lead platoon."I didn’t think there was anything better in the Marine Corps 

I could do,"  Hierl explained to the paper. But women weren't allowed in the 

Infantry until 2015, and the Marines were the last service to integrate women 

into combat units. Hierl persevered, making history by becoming the first woman 

to graduate the Infantry Officer Course and then again as the Marines' first female 

platoon commander, leading a team that is based out of Camp Pendleton, 

California.


While dozens of women have attempted to complete the grueling Infantry Officer 

Course, only two have passed. Hierl's lone female companion is reportedly 

working through a follow-on intelligence school, which, if she completes, would 

make her the Marine Corps' only female ground intelligence officer.


The Times reported that while Hierl's arrival at Echo Company was at first met with 

skepticism, she is now respected among her fellow Marines and is focused on 

being recognized for her leadership, not trailblazing."She's one of us," Lance Cpl. 

Kai Segura, 20, told the Times.

Celebrating 100 years of women in service

The history of women in the Marines began with Opha May Johnson. She was the first 

woman to enlist in the service on Aug. 13, 1918, the day after then-Secretary of 

the Navy Josephus Daniels allowed women to enlist for clerical duty in the Marine 

Corps Reserve.


In 1918, American women had not yet been granted the right to vote, but Johnson, 

who was 39 years old at the time, joined the Marine Corps anyway, serving as a 

clerk at Marine Corps Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. On Monday, the 

anniversary of Johnson's enlistment, the Marine Corps will celebrate 100 years of 

women in the service by opening a new exhibition. The contributions of female 

Marines will be part of the Women In Military Service For America Memorial in 

Washington, D.C.


Since 2001, more than 15,000 female Marines have served in the wars in Iraq and 

Afghanistan. Ten women have lost their lives in combat. In 2005, Lance Cpl. Holly 

A. Charlette became the first female Marine to be killed in Iraq when an 

improvised explosive device detonated near her convoy in Fallujah. Today, women 

only make up about 8 percent of the Marine Corps, by far the lowest  percentage of 

any branch of the military when compared to the Army, Navy, and Air Force. But 

female Marines continue to make inroads. In addition to Hierl's 

accomplishments, female Marines are serving as officers in artillery, tanks, and 

assault amphibious vehicles for the first time this year.


Speaking at the 100th anniversary celebration on Monday will be another woman 

making history for the Marines: Lt. Gen. Loretta "Lori" Reynolds. Reynolds is only 

the third woman to earn the three-star rank of Lieutenant General in the Marine 

Corps. In 2011, as a one-star general, she became the first woman to lead the 

Marine Corps' recruiting depot at Parris Island.Reynolds is now the deputy 

commandant for information in the Marine Corps and the commander of Marine 

Corps Forces Strategic Command.


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