For the first time in Marine Corps history, a woman is in charge of an infantry platoon

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First Lt. Marina Hierl is the first and only woman to lead an infantry platoon in the Marines.  Credit: Sgt. Gregory Boyd/Office of Marine Corps Communication First Lt. Marina Hierl is the first and only woman to lead an infantry platoon in the Marines. Credit: Sgt. Gregory Boyd/Office of Marine Corps Communication
By AJ Willingham CNN

(CNN) -- First Lt. Marina Hierl is making Marine history... again.

Last year, Lt. Hierl became the first woman to pass the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course, a physically and mentally demanding 13-week program in Quantico, Virginia.

Now, Hierl is the first and only woman to lead an infantry platoon in the Marines.

Hierl, 24, leads about 35 men in the Third Platoon of the 4th Marines' Echo Company, Second Battalion. They are currently in Northern Australia, where they are in the middle of several months of training.

"Leading Marines is an honor and privilege that 1st Lt. Hierl has earned through her own hard work and commitment, as do all our officers," Corps spokesman Major Brian Block told CNN in a statement.

"While we recognize and honor the unique contributions of women to the Marine Corps over the last 100 years, including the historic milestone of 1st Lt. Hierl's assignment, in the end we are Marines first and foremost. We are leveraging every Marines' individual performance, talent, and skills to maximize our warfighting capabilities in an increasingly complex operating environment."

The New York Times reports Hierl first became interested in the Marines after high school, but was encouraged to attend college to better prepare her to be an officer.

"I wanted to do something important with my life," she told the Times. "I wanted to be part of a group of people that would be willing to die for each other."

According to the Times, there 15,885 women currently serving in the Marines, making up about 8.6% of all active duty members of the branch.

Women were excluded from military combat roles until 2013, when Hierl was still in college. At the time, the decision received serious pushback from the Marines, who wanted to keep women from some combat positions like infantry, fire support, machine gunner and reconnaissance. Their efforts were overruled in 2015.

In 2017, the same year Hierl made history at the IOC in Quantico, three Marines became the first women to join an infantry battalion.

Coincidentally, August 13, 2018, marks the 100th anniversary of the enlistment of Opha May Johnson, the first female Marine in history.

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