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Marine, 24, is first woman to lead amphibian platoon

SAN DIEGO (AP) ― A 24-year-old Marine based in California has become the first female officer to lead an assault amphibian vehicle platoon, the U.S. Marine Corps said.

With her parents looking on, Second Lt. Mariah Klenke made history on Oct. 3 as she graduated from the Assault Amphibian Officer Course at Camp Pendleton.

“We cannot overlook the historic nature of this day,” Col. Dan Yaroslaski told the seven graduates and their family, friends and instructors at the ceremony. “We have set the standards every Marine has to pass. There has been no distinction between male and female.”

Klenke, from southern Illinois, was the first woman to enter the course after the Pentagon lifted its ban on females in combat roles in 2015.

She says she was never treated any differently from her male counterparts during rigorous training on land and at sea.

The most difficult part of the 12-week course, she said, was a one-week training of amphibious operations at the Beach at Camp Pendleton. There, she and her classmates practiced ship-to-shore movement and inland operation doing four missions a day.

“We operated on two hours of sleep,” she said.

Klenke will be assigned to command a platoon in the next few days, according to the Orange County Register.

“The Marine Corps is our job but it’s also our life,” she said. “I want to make their job fun so they put their heart and soul into it.”

Klenke’s first duty station will be with the 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion with the 1st Marine Division.

“She’s always been one to go above and beyond,” said her father, Darrell Klenke.

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