News: First Female Marines Graduate Infantry School, Make History
Story by Lance Cpl. Justin Rodriguez
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Three Marines made history by becoming the first females to ever graduate from the School of Infantry East, Camp Geiger, N.C., Nov. 21.
The graduating class of Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry East, included Pfc. Julia Carroll, Pfc. Cristina Fuentes Montenegro and Pfc. Katie Gorz, demonstrating women are capable of completing the same infantry training as their male counterparts.
Despite the recent policy changes regarding women serving in combat roles, these three Marines will attend various primary military occupational specialty schools and not serve in an infantry unit.
“I wish I was going to an infantry unit with my fellow Marines,” said Carroll, a native of Idaho Falls, Idaho. “We’re trained to take care of each other, and I wish I could help take care of them”
The integration of female Marines into SOI-East was a single phase of a research study to evaluate the plausibility of females serving in combat. The policy allows each service until Jan. 1, 2016, to evaluate combat related job fields and determine which should be open to both male and female service members and which should remain for males only.
Although these Marines will not serve in an infantry unit, they are grateful for the opportunity to attend the training.
“I volunteered to attend ITB because it was going to make me a better prepared Marine,” said Fuentes Montenegro, a native of Coral Springs, Fla. “I feel lucky to be given the opportunity, because there’s a lot of Marines who want to receive the training.”
The 59-day course is designed to effectively prepare Marines for combat situations. Over the course of the training they learn various skills including weapons systems, land navigation, scouting, patrolling and more.
“It was always training, day in and day out,” said Carroll. “But it’s very valuable, even if women are not in ground-combat roles, they can still get deployed and they can still see combat.”
During the course, the female Marines were held to the same established school standards as their male counterparts, proving both their physical and mental toughness.
“The Marines have built a common respect and a bond we’ve expected them to build during the shared hardship. This first evolution proves there are a number of highly qualified female Marines who are capable of meeting the existing standard for the training currently,” said Col. Jeffrey T. Conner, commanding officer of SOI-East.
Although this is only the first step toward the integration of women into combat arms roles, today’s graduation validates female Marines are capable of enduring one of the most physically and mentally demanding schools in the Marine Corps.