Second Lt. Lillian Polatchek made history on Wednesday when she became the first female graduate of the Army’s Armor Basic Officer Leaders Course, and the first woman to lead a Marine tank platoon.
Polatchek graduated from the Army-led Basic Armor Officer Leaders Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, at the top of her class of 67 Marines and soldiers.
She will soon report to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where she will serve as a tank officer with the 2nd Tank Battalion.
Despite being a trailblazer, she downplayed her accomplishment in a video posted by the Marine Corps.
“Ultimately, I am sort of just looking at it as another Marine graduating from this course.”
Today, a Marine made history. pic.twitter.com/6qK8de6Yw0
— U.S. Marines (@USMC) April 13, 2017
The 19-week course at Fort Benning is required for service members to become armor officers. Polatchek’s class had only five Marines in it, but they all graduated in the top 20% of their class, including three in the top five, according to a Marine Corps press statement.
“The small group of Marines in the class worked really well together and that reflects in the class rankings,” Polatchek said. “So it shows the success of all of our training up to this point and then how we worked well together as a group thanks to our instructors here.”
“I think she’s an inspiration for other female Marine who’ve been looking at the corps and considering joining a ground combat military occupational specialty,” Capt. Joshua Pena, a spokesman for Marine Training and Education Command, told Business Insider in a phone interview. “She’s an example, and we’re very proud of her.”
She is the third female Marine officer to complete training for a front-line combat position. The military opened all combat jobs to women in April 2016.
Two female Marines finished artillery officer training in May 2016. Both are currently serving with the 11th Marines at Camp Pendelton in California, Pena said. Two more female Marine officer will start the Marine’s Infantry Officer Course this month to try to become the first women to serve as infantry officers.
More than 30 female Marine officers have previously washed out from the course.
Polatchek is a native of New York, and attended Connecticut College before being commissioned in November 2015. She reported to the Marine Corps Detachment at Fort Benning after graduating from The Basic School at Marine Corp Base Quantico, Virginia.
“A tank platoon has 16 Marines, and that small leadership-size really gives you, as a platoon commander, the ability to directly work with the Marines you’re leading,” Polatchek said. “I’m excited to take everything we’ve learned here and to get a chance to go out to the fleet and apply it.”