First Lieutenant Marina Hierl, a 24-year-old from Pennsylvania, is the first woman to lead an infantry platoon in the U.S. Marine Corps, according to Time.
She now leads the Third Platoon of the 4th Marines’ Echo Company, Second Battalion, which is stationed in North Australia. She is leading 35 men.
A year ago, she become the first woman to pass the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course. Since then, only one other woman has passed the course out of the 37 women who have attempted it. She is the only one who has been given a platoon to lead.
The Marine Corps has historically been resistant to integrating women into combat troops, according to the New York Times. A spokesman for the Marines’ Training and Education Command said that men and women who go through the Infantry Officer Course are all given an “equal opportunity to succeed.”
Lieutenant Hierl grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She met with a Marine recruiter before graduating, and decided to join the corps because it “sounded good.”
“I wanted to do something important with my life,” she said to the New York Times. “I wanted to be part of a group of people that would be willing to die for each other.”
Her recruiter encouraged her to go to college before joining the corps. Lieutenant Hierl attended the University of Southern California, and during her sophomore year, the restriction on having women in combat roles was lifted.
Lieutenant Hierl recounted that it hadn’t occurred to her that her gender would be an issue in achieving her goals.
“I wanted to lead a platoon,” she said. “I didn’t think there was anything better in the Marine Corps I could do.”
According to the New York Times, the Marine Corps challenged the 2013 ruling, but was overruled. Women were able to join the infantry beginning in 2015. Out of the more than 15,000 women currently serving in the Marines, 80 are serving in combat roles.
Although there was initially some resistance to accepting Lieutenant Hierl’s leadership, over time she was accepted by the troops she led.
The same year that Lieutenant Hierl made history by passing the Infantry Officer Course, the Marines added three women to an infantry unit for the first time, according to CNN.
According to the New York Times, Lieutenant Hierl avoids publicity and wants to be viewed as a leader, not as a trailblazer. It appears that she has been successful in that regard.
“She’s one of us,” Lance Cpl. Kai Segura told a New York Times reporter.