San Diego

1st Woman Takes Command of Marine Ground Combat Arms Unit

Lt. Col. Michelle I. Macander took over as commanding officer of 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division

History is being made at Camp Pendleton.

The first woman to command a Marine ground combat arms unit has taken charge.

Lt. Col. Michelle I. Macander took over as commanding officer of 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division during a change of command ceremony on June 22.

"It is a privilege to carry on the legacy of this storied battalion, and continue to provide support to the largest and most decorated Division in the Marine Corps. I'm honored to be a part of the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion team,” Macander said.

Retired Marine Corps Col. Jane Siegel called the change of command a win not just for Macander, but for the United States Marine Corps.

“I see this as a great step, a giant step for womankind,” Col. Siegel said.

The road to this milestone for women in the Marine Corps has been a long one. Infantry opened to women in 2012 and the Pentagon opened all jobs at the end of 2015.

According to the Marine Corps, 38 women have tried to become infantry officers and only eight have gotten into the grueling Infantry Officer Course.

The second woman Marine to complete the course did so on June 23. She intends to be a ground intelligence officer.

Woman Marine veterans said it is important for both junior women and men in the Marines to see a woman in command and they hope this will be the new normal.

Knowing the Marine Corps, that could take some time, Siegel said.

“It will eventually be the new normal. Right now it’s just new and there will be people looking at this and saying, ‘She just got there because the Marine Corps wants to promote a woman,’” she said.

Those critics are also outspoken about the changing the standards. The Marine Corps modified its Infantry Officer Course to reflect today’s real-world dynamics, according to the leadership.

As for the course of Macander's nearly two-decade career, she was the honor graduate from the Marine Corps Engineer School, according to her Marine Corps biography. The New York native participated in the initial movement into Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom I in 2003 and served as Operations Officer during a deployment to Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Col. Siegel called Lt. Col. Macander a “shining example for other women.”

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