Camp Pendleton has named first female commander of Marine Corps ground combat unit
By ERIKA I. RITCHIE | The Orange County Register (Tribune News Service) | Published: June 28, 2018
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — For the first time, a female Marine has been named commander of a ground combat arms unit, military officials announced Wednesday, June 27.
Lt. Col. Michelle Macander took over command of the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion June 22 at Camp Pendleton.
“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,” Macander said in a statement. “I’m honored to be a part of the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion team.”
Macander took over command of the battalion from Lt. Col. Christopher M. Haar. The transfer of authority ceremony included a speech by Maj. Gen. Eric M. Smith, commanding general of 1st Marine Division.
The appointment is the latest in a series of history-making firsts for women in the Marine Corps and at Camp Pendleton.
In September, a female Marine became the first to graduate from the grueling 13-week Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course. In October, 2nd Lt. Mariah Klenke became the first female Marine to graduate from the Assault Amphibian Officer Course and was assigned to Camp Pendleton’s 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion. And in March, a group of female Marines became the first to enter Camp Pendleton’s combat Training Battalion.
On June 23, a second female Marine graduated from the Marine Corps’ Infantry Officer Course. Thirty other Marines, including two women, did not make it through, said Capt. Joshua Pena.
The 1st Combat Engineer Battalion is based on Camp Pendleton’s north end, at Camp San Mateo. It provides tactical and logistical engineer support to the 1st Marine Division. The battalion was part of the 1 Marine Expeditionary Force’s march into Baghdad and followed up with numerous deployments to Irag and Afghanistan.
Macander, of Clifton Park, N.Y., graduated from Georgia Technical University in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in international affairs. She was first assigned to Marine Wing Support Squadron at Camp Pendleton and deployed to Iraq in 2003.
In 2004, she transferred to the 9th Engineer Support Battalion and deployed again to Iraq as a liaison to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Macander completed Expeditionary Warfare School in Quantico, Va., in 2009. She deployed again to the Helmand Province in Afghanistan and in 2014 served as the Central Command’s counter narcotics officer in Kabul. She transferred to the 1 Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton in 2013 and was promoted to lieutenant colonel in October.
Macander’s decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal with two Gold Stars, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Navy CommendationMedal with one Gold Star, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, the Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal with one Gold Star and combat distinguishing device, and the Combat Action Ribbon.
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U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Michelle I. Macander, incoming commanding officer of 1st Combat Engineer Battalion (CEB), 1st Marine Division, sits with her family during a change of command ceremony at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, June 22, 2018.
LANCE CPL. AUDREY C. M. RAMPTON/U.S. MARINE CORPS