SAN DIEGO — There was excitement in the air as family and friends of new Marines made their way to the grandstands on the parade deck of Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego on Thursday morning. At the end of the parade grounds, 397 freshly minted Marines stood at parade rest in formation. Passing family members stole glances trying to find their Marines among the uniformed mass.
While the San Diego depot graduates about 40 companies of new Marines each year, Thursday's ceremony was special. It was only the third graduation open to family and friends since they were suspended in March 2020 due to the coronavirus. And in one of the six graduating platoons were 53 women — the first women to graduate from Marine Corps' San Diego boot camp in its 100-year history.
Until now, all women enlistees in the Marine Corps trained at the service's East Coast boot camp in South Carolina — and, until recently, trained in segregated companies away from their male counterparts. In 2019, Congress ordered the Marines to fully integrate both its boot camps within a decade — Parris Island, South Carolina, by 2025 and San Diego by 2028.
Lima Company's graduation Thursday marked a "significant milestone" in the depot's history and represents a top priority for the service, the Marines said in a statement.
"The inaugural integrated training company will help inform infrastructure and personnel requirements to support permanent gender-integrated recruit training," the statement said.
The women training at MCRD San Diego had to accomplish the same training milestones as men — including the grueling 54-hour Crucible exercise at Camp Pendleton.
Pfc. Katey Hogan, 18, said the historic nature of her platoon's accomplishment wasn't lost on the women of the platoon. But for the most part, they were just focused on training.
"Boot camp is just boot camp to me, it's another part of my journey and another chapter that I'm trying to get through," she said. "There are some days where I'm like 'wow, we're really making history' but I haven't really realized it yet because I've been training."
Hogan, who is from Sacramento, was the platoon's guide, its senior recruit and honor graduate. Like most of the women in the platoon, she will go on to Marine Combat Training at Camp Pendleton before shipping off to a specialized school, in her case one for motor transport.
Three women from the platoon are bound for the School of Infantry at Camp Pendleton.