53 Women Officially Become Marines at Formerly All-Male Boot Camp

Female recruits Marine Corps Recruit Depot
Recruits with Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, participate in the Bayonet Assault course at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, March 24, 2021. (Lance Cpl. Zachary T. Beatty/U.S. Marine Corps)

Dozens of new female Marines completed the grueling final exercise required of recruits in boot camp this week, setting them up to become the first women in the service’s history to graduate from the historically all-male Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.

Fifty-three women in the first-ever coed company to train at the Marine Corps’ West Coast training base completed the Crucible Thursday morning. The demanding three-day event is the culminating exercise at boot camp, and the recruits were presented with the coveted eagle, globe and anchor pins afterward and called Marines for the first time.

The female platoon, which was part of Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, won the final drill competition, said Capt. Martin Harris, a spokesman at the recruit depot. During the competition, drill instructors are given a list of tasks at random that their recruits must perform on the parade deck.

Read Next: After Fatal Accident, Marines in Waterborne AAVs Get Emergency Breathing Devices

Each platoon is evaluated individually by drill masters. Winning the competition, Harris said, requires good teamwork, efficiency and discipline.

The female platoon also had the highest Physical and Combat Fitness Test scores in their company, Harris said. Recruits take several fitness tests throughout the 13-week boot camp curriculum. The female platoon, he said, “won all the physical events,” he said.

Their scores on the rifle range were also higher than the average female platoon at the Marines' East Coast recruit training base in Parris Island, South Carolina, he said. Previously, all female enlisted Marines have been trained at Parris Island.

Marine officials have said coed companies perform on par with or better than all-male or all-female training companies. 

"If anything, it went a little better because there's a little bit more competition with [each platoon] going, 'No, we need to beat them,' or 'We can't let them beat us,'" now-retired Maj. Gen. William Mullen told Military.com the year the coed training began. "So there was a little bit of that effect. But other than that, there was no real difference."

Military.com first reported in December that women would be, for the first time, completing their entry-level training in San Diego. 

In February, 59 female recruits arrived on the West Coast to begin boot camp. Some had medical issues that prevented them from starting or completing the training, Harris said.

No other female platoons are currently training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. The Marine Corps is now assessing the first iteration of coed training on the West Coast before determining next steps, he said.

Drill instructors at Parris Island are currently training the 15th coed company there. For the first time last month, men at that training base graduated from the historically all-female 4th Recruit Training Battalion as part of that effort.

The Marine Corps must meet a mandate signed into law in 2019 to make boot camp training coed within five years on the East Coast, and within eight on the West. Marine leaders are also studying whether to close one or both of its entry-level training sites and train all new enlistees in the same location.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Related: In First, Male Marines Graduate From Historically All-Female Boot Camp Training Battalion

Story Continues