Latest Woman to Try Marines' Infantry Officer Course Drops after Hike

Female Marine

The 30th and latest female officer to attempt the U.S. Marine Corps' grueling infantry officer course held on until the 11th day before she was dropped, officials said.

The officer, whose name has not been disclosed, plans to reattempt the course later this summer.

She was the first woman to attempt IOC in Quantico, Virginia, after the Corps opened infantry jobs to women in keeping with a Pentagon mandate this year.

Previously, 29 female officers had attempted the course on a volunteer basis between 2012 and 2015 as the service researched the effects of removing gender barriers for combat jobs.

A spokesman for Marine Corps Training and Education Command, Maj. Anton Semelroth, said the course started April 4. The officer completed the course’s grueling first-day combat endurance test, which has stymied most female course participants.

She was recycled April 21, day 11 out of 84, after failing to complete a hike for the second time since the course began, Semelroth said. Two male officers were also recycled for the same reason, he said.

"All are being placed into the Marines Awaiting Training (MAT) Platoon and will have the opportunity to re-enter training in July with class 4-16," Semelroth said.

All officers seeking an infantry military occupational specialty are granted two chances to complete IOC. This could prove a key advantage to female officers who now can aspire to lead an infantry unit.

In 2014, Marine 2nd Lt. Sage Santangelo wrote an editorial in The Washington Post after she had made an unsuccessful attempt at passing IOC.

Santangelo claimed the deck was stacked against female IOC participants, in part because they were not guaranteed a second shot at the course the way the men were. Since female IOC volunteers previously were bound for non-infantry jobs in the fleet and took time away from their own MOS training to participate in the 13-week course, most only could make one attempt to pass.

To reach the second week of IOC is no small task. To date, only two other female officers have made it so far, reaching day 18 of the course before being forced to drop, Semelroth said.

While IOC continues to pose the greatest challenge of any infantry course for women entering the ranks, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told Marines earlier this month that the course’s physical standards would remain high no matter what.

"One of the questions I got at IOC was, 'OK, five years from now, no woman had made it through IOC. What happens?'" Mabus said at Camp Pendleton, California, on April 12. "My response was, 'no woman made it through IOC. Standards aren't going to change.'"

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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