The woman, whose name has not been disclosed, is the first female officer to complete the course out of three dozen to have tried. She is expected to lead an infantry platoon of about 40 Marines, a trailblazing role within an organization that has been criticized for its resistance to such change and for fostering a culture of misogyny. The service was engulfed in scandal earlier this year when more than 1,000 current Marines and veterans were investigated as part of an online network that shared, critiqued and in many cases ridiculed photographs of nude female colleagues.
The historic moment arrives nearly two years after the Pentagon lifted the military’s last remaining restrictions for women, part of an effort by Barack Obama’s administration to make the armed forces fully inclusive. Officials shared few details about the lieutenant Thursday, saying it is unlikely she will agree to do any media interviews, preferring instead to be a “quiet professional” and just do her job.
Four others have attempted the course since the Pentagon opened all jobs to women in December 2015, including the lieutenant expected to graduate Monday. At least one of those four women attempted the course twice but did not complete it.
The course requires both proficiency in the field, and the strength and stamina to carry equipment weighing up to 152 pounds. The school begins with a day-long combat endurance test that includes rigorous hikes through Quantico’s rolling, wooded hills, an obstacle course, and assessments of skills like weapons assembly and land navigation.
Historically, about 10 percent of students fail the first day.
The new infantry officer will join a part of the military long seen as being critical of serving alongside women.
When surveyed in 2012, three out of four active-duty Marine infantrymen said they were opposed to full gender integration. Of the 54,000 Marines who responded, 90 percent of men indicated they were concerned about problems arising from intimate relationships between personnel in the same combat unit, and more than 80 percent said they were concerned about the possibility of false sexual allegations, fraternization, and women receiving preferential treatment.