Marine Corps officials have said they plan to send 300 women through the Infantry Training Battalion by next fall, though the field will remain closed to them until at least 2015. (Chief Warrant Officer 2 Paul Mancuso / Marine Corp)
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Ten women graduated from the Marine Corps’ enlisted infantry training course on Thursday, part of the service’s ongoing research to determine what additional ground combat jobs should lift their gender restrictions.
The women were assigned to Echo Company, Infantry Training Battalion, at Camp Geiger, N.C., which is home to the service’s School of Infantry East. SOI is the first stop for all new Marines once they complete boot camp, but until recently only men participated in infantry training curriculum.
Thirteen women began this iteration of the course in October, said Capt. Geraldine Carey, a spokeswoman for the school. Four dropped out and one, Pfc. Harlee Bradford, joined the group after being sidelined with an injury sustained during the previous course.
The first three women to ever graduate from ITB completed the program last month. Fifteen began that course.
Women are participating in infantry training on a volunteer basis as part of Marine Corps research, in cooperation with a broader Defense Department study, to determine whether female Marines should be allowed to enter certain military specialties. New female lieutenants also are volunteering for the Infantry Officer Course, but to date no women have passed.
Marine Corps officials have said they plan to send 300 women through the battalion by next fall, though female graduates will not receive infantry occupational specialties and the field will remain closed to them until at least 2015. Even then, depending on the research results, Marine officials could seek an exception to keep the infantry and related fields closed.
The grueling 59-day course includes a series of hikes with Marines weighed down by a 90-pound combat load. To pass, men and women must complete the Combat Fitness Test and the men’s version of the Physical Fitness Test, which requires women to perform at least three pull-ups.
In addition to Bradford, the new graduates are Pvts. Kassandra Woodward, Brittany Dunklee, Mica Hollingsworth and Michelle Verduzco, and Pfcs. Rose Rodriguez, Fabiola Perezzuniga, Fabiola Davila, Falanda Joachin and Catherine Sanders.
Other ITB companies with female volunteers, including Alpha and Bravo, will complete the course later this year and early next.