First female Marine to attempt infantry course dropped on final attempt

The first female Marine to try to become an infantry officer has been reclassified to a different military occupational specialty after failing her second attempt at the grueling Infantry Officer’s Course, Military.com has learned.

The officer, who has not been publicly identified, began the 84-day course July 6 and was dropped July 18 after failing to complete two conditioning hikes, Capt. Joshua Pena said.

“IOC students may not fall out of more than one hike during a course,” Pena said.

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U.S. Marines from Delta Company, U.S. Marines from Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), School of Infantry-East (SOI-E) listen to a combat order brief before stepping off on a raid, which is part of the Infantry Integrated Field Training Exercise aboard Camp Geiger, N.C. | U. S. Marine Corps photo by CWO2 Mancuso, Paul S. Combat Camera

In all, 34 of the 97 officers who began the course have been dropped. Nine, including the female officer, were recommended for MOS redesignation, meaning they will be placed in a non-infantry job within the Marine Corps.

The female officer first attempted the course in April, just months after Defense Secretary Ashton Carter declared all previously closed ground combat jobs open to women and ordered the services to design plans for integration. She was dropped on the 11th day of that attempt, after failing to complete a second hike.

Notably, the officer passed the notoriously challenging first day’s combat endurance test both times she attempted the course.

While 29 female officers had attempted the IOC on a test basis in a three-year period before the integration mandate was handed down, none would have had the chance to enter infantry jobs upon passing the course.

And because all but one of the female officers were volunteers attempting the course for personal improvement and Marine Corps research purposes, they were not guaranteed a second shot at the course the way male officers were. (The other female Marine was attempting to become a ground intelligence officer, a job that opened before other infantry jobs.)

For that reason, female officers now have their fairest shot at passing the course as the Corps looks to integrate previously male-only units.

But it remains to be seen how many women will attempt to enter these formerly closed positions.

Pena said there are now no female officers enrolled or slated to participate in future IOC classes. The current class will conclude Sept. 20.

In April, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the Marine Corps would not change its physical standards in an attempt to help its first female infantry officers enter the fleet.

“One of the questions I got at IOC was, ‘OK, five years from now, no woman had made it through IOC. What happens?’ ” Mabus said at Camp Pendleton on April 12. “My response was, ‘No woman made it through IOC. Standards aren’t going to change.’ “