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US Marines Choose First Female Infantry Officer

FILE - U.S. Marines work with instructors on a building-clearing drill in Chesapeake, Virginia, Sept. 25, 2012.

A female Marine made history Monday as the first woman infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Marine Major Amy Punzel told VOA the female lieutenant prefers to keep her name private. She was one of 88 Marines who graduated Monday from the Marine Corps' grueling, 13-week infantry officer course in Quantico, Virginia.

The military opened all combat positions to women in 2016. Many female Marines have earned spots in combat posts since then, but only four women have attempted to become Marine infantry officers, according to a spokeswoman for the Corps, Sarah Burns.

"I am proud of this officer and those in her class," said the Marines' commandant, General Robert Neller. "Marines expect and rightfully deserve competent and capable leaders, and these IOC graduates met every training requirement as they prepare for the next challenge of leading infantry Marines, ultimately in combat."

The course trains new infantry and ground intelligence officers in leadership and infantry skills required to serve as infantry platoon commanders in the operating forces.

Historically, about 10 percent of students fail on the first day of the course, which includes an endurance test that lasts for more than 14 hours and is designed to test Marines both physically and mentally.

In 2012, the Marines opened the course to women on an experimental basis. More than 30 attempted the course at the time, but none of the women passed; most failed on the first day.

According to a Marine Corps press release, the new infantry officer has been assigned to 1st Marine Division in Camp Pendleton, California.

Earlier this year, Private First Class Maria Daume became the first female Marine to join the infantry through the traditional entry-level training process, a process made available to women just half a year earlier.

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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.