First female Marine Corps Infantry Officer serves as symbol for women

Photo credit: Rewon Shimray

“Fight like a girl” is more than a cliche, and it took on even more sincerity this week. On Monday, a female Marine graduated from the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course, a 13-week, physically demanding course that teaches combat skills, patrolling and leadership. The woman, who asked to keep her identity private, is the first female to earn the 0302 infantry officer military occupational specialty.

The course has been open to females since 2012, and 36 women have enrolled since then, but have all failed. The Infantry Officer Course is notorious for being one of the toughest schools in the Marine Corps. In the most recent class, only 88 of the original 131 students graduated. This woman serves as a symbol of strength and power for women, as she is defying the odds and beating out men by graduating from this grueling course.

Opening the course to women was a result of the research by the Pentagon on the feasibility of integrating all-male infantry units. In 2015, the Pentagon lifted all gender-based restrictions on military service, allowing women to serve alongside men in combat units.

Although some argued that units performed better when they were all male, the final decision on lifting gender restrictions came after lawsuits and the argument that women can add various skills and perspectives to the military.

The graduation of this woman from the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course is a monumental move for women in the military, as it shows that women are physically capable of keeping up with men.

Over the past few decades much attention has been focused on the wage discrepancy between the sexes, the percentage of women in “manly” jobs and the overall respect of women’s rights. Google has been the biggest name in recent issues over equal pay, as the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Administrative Law Judges accused Google of pay discrimination this past April. The lawsuit has not been settled yet.

For young girls growing up and aspiring to make an impact on the world, this anonymous Marine Corps officer is a role model, showing them that women can do anything they put their minds to. Women are strong, women are courageous, women are powerful and women are fearless. By discriminating against the female population in something as admirable as defending our country, that power gets taken away from women for no reason.

There is no valid argument as to why it should have taken until 2015 for women to get the right to reach any level of service in the military. However, bitterness aside, lifting the gender restrictions and seeing a female graduate the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course is a great step toward equality across the genders. Let women decide for themselves if they can handle the course or if they can handle a front-line unit.

Only in the past century have women’s rights been on the rise. The right to vote was ratified in 1920, the first equal rights amendment was proposed in 1923, contraceptives were legalized in 1965, civil rights protections were extended to women in 1967, Title IX of the education amendments was passed in 1972 and employment discrimination against pregnant women was banned in 1978.

It’s important that we recognize the anonymous officer that graduated this past Monday because she stands for women’s rights. Every woman has a story, and every woman has the power to be part of something bigger. Monday, an anonymous woman stood up to the challenge and did not disappoint. Who will be the next woman to follow in her footsteps?