Marine Grunts On The Corps' First-Ever Female Infantry Leader: 'She's One of Us'


Editor’s Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on, the premier source of information for the military and veteran community.

The first woman to graduate from the Marine Corps' notoriously grueling Infantry Officer Course is now leading a platoon of male grunts in Australia.

First Lt. Marina Hierl is the only female Marine to lead an infantry platoon in her service's history. About a year after she reported to Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, the novelty of it all has worn off a bit — and she's even left some male grunts rethinking their opinions about women in the infantry.

That's according to a new report from The New York Times, which recently observed Hierl training her platoon in Australia's Northern Territory. The grunts are deployed there as part of Marine Rotational Force — Darwin, which spends half of every year Down Under.

The 24-year-old lieutenant from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, told the Times she didn't know much about the military before joining the Marine Corps. What she did know is that she wanted to do something important with her life.

"I wanted to be part of a group of people that would be willing to die for each other," Hierl said.

Marina Hierl participates in an exercise during the Infantry Officer Course at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, Sept. 18, 2017. The first female Marine to complete the course graduated Sept. 25, 2017.U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Gregory Boyd

When former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced during her sophomore year of college that the policy barring women from serving in the infantry would be lifted, Hierl said she knew what she wanted to do.

"I wanted to lead a platoon," she told the Times. "I didn't think there was anything better in the Marine Corps I could do."

But not everyone was convinced she had what it takes to lead 38 infantry Marines. Others in Echo Company have made sexist cracks about her platoon, The New York Times reported. But those reporting directly to her, even if skeptical at first, quickly recognized her capabilities.

Twenty-year-old Lance Cpl. Kai Segura is one of those Marines. In an interview with the Times, he recalled Hierl's speed when leading her Marines back from an exercise in California's Mojave Desert.

Infantry Marines are often leery of any new lieutenant who comes in to lead their platoons, but Hierl quickly showed they were going to have to keep up with her — not the other way around.

"She's one of us," Segura told the Times.

Hierl is one of just two women who've completed the Infantry Officer Course; 37 have attempted it.

She'll continue operating with 2/4, which includes two enlisted female infantry Marines, in Darwin until the fall. Read more about Hierl's platoon and what they've been up to on their Australian rotation here.

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The retired Marine Corps general laid out why the world's oldest democracy no longer seems to be able to reach a consensus on any issue, arguing that the underlying problem is politicians no longer debate: They just launch personal attacks against each other.

"We scorch our opponents with language that precludes compromise," Mattis wrote. "We brush aside the possibility that a person with whom we disagree might be right. We talk about what divides us and seldom acknowledge what unites us. Meanwhile, the docket of urgent national issues continues to grow—unaddressed and, under present circumstances, impossible to address."

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Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.

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The photos showcase the wide range of goals and ideals for which these women took up arms. Addario's work includes captivating vignettes of a seasoned guerrilla fighter in the jungles of Colombia; a team of Israeli military police patrolling the streets of Jerusalem; and a unit of Kurdish women guarding ISIS refugees in Syria. Some fight to prove themselves, others seek to ignite social change in their home country, and others do it to liberate other women from the grip of ISIS.

Addario visited several active war zones for the piece, but she found herself shaken by something much closer to home: the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina.

Addario discussed her visit to boot camp and her other travels in an interview with Task & Purpose, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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