For the first time, women have graduated from the U.S. Marine Corps' boot camp in San Diego.
The graduation of dozens of women from Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego on Thursday -- as part of Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, the camp's first ever coed company -- marks a significant milestone in the service's effort to expand training opportunities for female Marines. Congress ordered the Corps in 2019 to make its two boot camps -- at Parris Island, South Carolina, and San Diego -- completely coed.
Previously, women did not train at San Diego and could become enlisted Marines only at Parris Island, where they traditionally trained apart from men in their own battalion.
The 2019 law required Parris Island to completely integrate women into training alongside men within five years and San Diego to go coed within eight years. But officials at the California boot camp decided to move much more quickly.
Last month, 53 women became the first to complete the Crucible in San Diego -- the grueling, three-day training exercise that marks the culminating event of boot camp -- and earned the right to be called "Marine." Another six female recruits who arrived for boot camp in February were unable to start or complete the training, some because of medical issues.
The platoon of female recruits won the final drill competition last month; they also had the highest Physical and Combat Fitness Test scores in their company. And their rifle range scores were higher than the average female platoon at Parris Island.
The Marine Corps plans to study how coed training went on the West Coast before deciding what the next steps should be.
-- Gina Harkins contributed to this report.