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First Female Marine Officer Leads Assault Amphibian Vehicle Platoon

Mariah Klenke

By Debbie Gregory.

Second Lt. Mariah Klenke has made history.

On Tuesday,  October 3, the Camp Pendleton Marine became the first female to graduate from the Marine Corps Assault Amphibian Officer Course and earn the military occupational specialty (MOS) of assault amphibian officer.

Klenke was the first woman to start the course since the Pentagon nixed its ban on female troops in combat roles in late 2015.

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

“We cannot overlook the historic nature of this day,” Col. Dan Yaroslaski, commander of the Assault Amphibian School, told the graduates, family, friends, commanders and instructors at the ceremony.  “The Marine Corps has been through the process of integration. We can stop talking about integration. This is who we are. We have set the standards every Marine has to pass. There has been no distinction between male and female.”

The demanding 12-week amphibious assault officer course is designed to produce platoon leaders who command assault amphibious vehicle crews. Klenke learned gunnery marksmanship, water survival skills and offensive and defensive operations, both on shore and deep inland.

Previous to her service, Klenke attended and graduated from the University of Tennessee, where she played collegiate soccer, holding her own with her male counterparts.

Klenke said that her toughest challenge came during amphibious operations training, when she completed up to four missions daily.

“We operated pretty much all day. We got a couple of hours of sleep and then went back to operating the next day,” she said.

“I’m excited to finally get done with the course and onto the fleet,” she said after the graduation ceremony

As for women thinking about a career in the corps, Klenke said anything is possible.

“If you think you can do it, you can do it,” she said. “There were hard times in the class, but hey, I got through them. I’m nothing special. I just did my job and if you work hard you can get through it.”

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