It’s official: The Marine Corps has its first female infantry officer.
The first female candidate to successfully complete the branch’s intense Infantry Officer Course graduated at Marine Corps Base Quantico on Sept. 25, the branch announced, earning an infantry officer MOS and a follow-on assignment with the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton in California.
The anonymous lieutenant all but clinched her historic achievement after completing the three-week live-fire culminating event at Twentynine Palms, Task & Purpose originally reported on Sept. 21. The 35th female candidate to attempt the notoriously grueling 13-week IOC pipeline since the branch opened the course’s doors to women in 2012, the lieutenant had by early September surmounted the training obstacles that had stymied her predecessors.
Of the 131 Marines who attempted to the IOC back in July, some 88 graduated on Sept. 25. That means nearly one-third of the class didn’t make the cut — well above the course’s normal 25% washout rate. And to mark the historic moment, the Corps released a brief video of the anonymous lieutenant during training:
Despite pervasive concerns among active-duty and veteran Marines regarding lower training standards for female candidates — anxieties compounded by public scrutiny of the branch in the aftermath of the Marines United new photo-sharing scandal that rocked the armed forces in March 2017 — the overall reaction within the appears to be one of pride.
In an email to Task & Purpose, a Marine Corps Training and Education Command spokesman emphasized that the IOC training standards “did not change.” Those standards, as Task & Purpose previously reported, include brutal marches of between 6.4 and 9.3 miles, with candidates lugging weight loads up to 152 pounds — significantly more intense requirements than other officer training pipelines across the U.S. military.
The Corps seems well aware of this perception in its release of the training footage. In the past, service branches rarely divulged details regarding female candidates attempting traditionally male-only specialty pipelines, like the elite SEAL Officer Assessment and Selection (SOAS) course, both in accordance with privacy rules governing the personal information of federal employees and the wishes of individual candidates. In this case, the branch showcased the candidate’s performance during IOC while keeping her identity anonymous in accordance with her wishes.
“She’s a quiet professional,” TECOM spokesman Capt. Joshua Pena told Task & Purpose. “She wanted to go through training, graduate with her peers, and continue with her career in the Marines.”
In a statement, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller emphasized that every IOC graduate “met every training requirement as they [prepared] for the next challenge of leading infantry Marines; ultimately, in combat.” But one Marine veteran, an IOC graduate who returned to Quantico as an instructor between 2011 and 2013 while the branch was examining the question of female infantry officer candidates, put it more succinctly.
“The coin I received for completing the IOC is worth exactly the same right now as it was before she graduated,” he told Task & Purpose. “This has been a long time coming, and I’m proud the Corps did this on its own terms.”