The United States Marine Corps just got first-ever female infantry platoon commander: First Lt. Marina A. Hierl. The 24-year-old soldier is slated to take charge of 35 male soldiers who belong to Echo Company, which is currently stationed in Australia as a response force in the Pacific region with a strength of 175 marines and Navy sailors.
According to The New York Times, this is the first time in the history of the Marine Corps that a female will lead an infantry platoon.
The Echo Company is undergoing a six-month training period in the Northern Territory of Australia. Hailing from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Hierl worked on a local horse farm as a teenager. She had decided to enlist in the Marines even before graduating high school, saying that being recruited for the Corps "sounded good".
"I wanted to do something important with my life," she said.
"I wanted to be part of a group of people that would be willing to die for each other."
However, the recruiter recommended her to attend college before enlisting. Before enlisting on an officer's track, Hierl attended the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. The female firebrand never let her gender come in between her dreams.
"I wanted to lead a platoon," she said. "I didn’t think there was anything better in the Marine Corps I could do." Having said that, the 24-year-old soldier needed to successfully complete a physically as well as mentally demanding, 13-week infantry officer course at Quantico, Virginia, in order to command a platoon.
She was one of only two women who succeeded in passing the course, out of 37 others.
According to The New York Times, Capt. Neal T. Jones, the commanding officer of Echo Company, immediately asked that Hierl be sent to his unit after learning about her assignment to the battalion.
“If you’re the first to do something, that implies you have so many positive traits,” Captain Jones said. “And that’s not always the case when it comes to every lieutenant — including myself.”
In 2016, Capt. Kristen M. Griest became the Army's first female infantry officer after being one of fifteen women who graduated from the army's vigorous Ranger school.
“I do hope that, with our performance in Ranger school, we’ve been able to inform that decision as to what they can expect from women in the military,” Captain Griest said when she graduated in 2015. “We can handle things physically and mentally on the same level as men.”
According to the Department of Defense, around 15 percent of over 1.3 million U.S. active-duty troops are women.
According to Daily Mail, the Corps was agitated after a private Facebook group engaged in the secret distribution of explicit images of women in the armed forces, with each post containing indecent, sexist commentary within the photo sharing group.