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

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 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 . ‘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." 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 a 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. Marines participate in an exercise during the Infantry Officer Course at Quantico, Va., Aug. 10, 2017. The first female Marine to complete the course graduated Sept. 25, 2017. 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 intelligence officer. A Marine participates in an exercise during the Infantry Officer Course at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Sept. 18, 2017. 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. The first […]

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