The Marines have their first female armor officer

Standing in front of an M1A1 Abrams tank, 2nd Lt. Lillian Polatchek is the first female Marine Tank Officer after graduating as the distinguished honor graduate of her Army's Armor Basic Officer Leaders Course on April 12, 2017.


By COREY DICKSTEIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 13, 2017

WASHINGTON — The Marine Corps’ first female armor officer will soon report to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where she will become the first woman to lead a Marine tank platoon.

On Wednesday, 2nd Lt. Lillian R. Polatchek graduated from the Army-led Basic Armor Officer Leaders Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, said Marine Capt. Joshua Pena, a spokesman for Marine Training and Education Command. Polatchek was the top graduate in the class of 67 soldiers and Marines.

Polatchek downplayed her history-making graduation in a video released Wednesday by the Marine Corps.

“Ultimately, I am sort of just looking at it as another Marine graduating from this course,” she said.

Soldiers and Marines must complete the 19-week course to become armor officers. Polatchek’s graduating class had only five Marines, but each graduated in the top 20 percent of the class, including the top three students, according to a Marine Corps statement.

Polatchek credited her previous training in Marine Officer Candidate School and the Basic School, where newly commissioned Marine officers are taught leadership skills, for preparing her to do well in armor school.

“We as a group [of Marines] did a really great job and that reflects on the class rankings,” she said. “So it shows the success of all of our training up to this point and then how we worked well together as a group thanks to our instructors here.”

Polatchek is a native of New York and a 2012 graduate of Connecticut College, according to the Marines’ statement. She joined the Marines in 2015 and attended officer candidate school. After completing the Basic School she elected to attempt armor school.

She is the third female Marine officer to complete training to serve in a traditionally all-male, front-line combat position. The Pentagon opened all military jobs previously closed to women in April 2016.

Two female Marines completed artillery officer training in May of last year and are both serving with the 11th Marines at Camp Pendleton in California, Pena said.

Two female Marine officers this month will begin the Marine’s Infantry Officer Course in an attempt to become the first women to serve as infantry officers, Pena said. More than 30 female Marine officers had washed out from the course previously.

There are no other women, either officers or enlisted, awaiting Marines’ armor training, Pena said. No enlisted women are serving in an armor position, he said.

Four enlisted female Marines have completed infantry training and are serving in infantry units at Camp Lejeune and Camp Pendleton. Pena said additional enlisted female Marines are expected to complete infantry training and join combat units in the near future.

It was not immediately clear Thursday when Polatchek would check-in to her new unit, the Marine’s 2nd Tank Battalion, or when she would take command of a tank platoon, spokesmen for Marine headquarters and the II Marine Expeditionary Force said.

In the Marine statement, Polatchek said she was looking forward to leading Marines.

“A tank platoon has 16 Marines, and that small leadership-size really gives you, as a platoon commander, the ability to directly work with the Marines you’re leading,” she said. “I’m excited to take everything we’ve learned [in armor training] and get a chance to go out to the fleet and apply it.”

Twitter: @CDicksteinDC