First Marine Woman to Graduate Grueling Infantry Officer Course

Marine Infantry Officer Course students await a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter fast rope drill on the Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Auxiliary Landing Field 2, Wednesday, August 18, 2014. (U.S. Marine Corps/ Cpl. James Marchetti)
Military.com |

Barring any last-minute glitches, the first woman Marine to pass the grueling Infantry Officer Course will graduate Monday and be qualified to lead a rifle platoon in combat, the Marine Corps said Thursday.

The lieutenant, who has not been identified, succeeded where three other women had failed in the past -- one of them twice -- and is set to join graduation ceremonies with her peers at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, the Marine Corps' Training and Education Command said.

The historic graduation was first reported by The Washington Post.

"The female officer within Infantry Officer Course (IOC) has completed all graduation requirements," the command said in a statement.

The 13-week course recently concluded with a three-week, live-fire exercise at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, also known as Twentynine Palms, California.

"Since ground combat military occupational specialties [MOS] were opened to women in April 2016, four female Marine officers have volunteered and attempted Infantry Officer Course. The female officer in the current course will be the first female to successfully complete IOC and earn the MOS of 0302, Infantry Officer," the command said.

The IOC is the last hurdle to becoming a Marine platoon commander and is also the required training for ground intelligence officers.

"The demanding 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 in the operating forces," the command said.

To graduate, those entering IOC must complete six graded tactical-movement exercises, including hikes of 6.4 and 9.3 miles with loads of up to 152 pounds. About 25 percent of those who attempt the course fail to complete it.

The graduation Monday will come nearly two years after the Pentagon lifted the military's last remaining restrictions for women, part of an effort to make the armed forces fully inclusive.

The Corps first opened the Infantry Officer Course to women on an experimental basis in 2012, allowing them to attempt it as part of broader research across the Defense Department examining the integration of women into all-male units.

Thirty-two women tried the course before the research ended in spring 2015, and none completed it.

Four additional female Marines, including the one who will graduate Monday, have attempted the course since the Pentagon opened all jobs to women in December 2015.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

Related Video:

Two Minute Brief: Women in the U.S. Military