1st woman Marine to command combat unit at Camp Pendleton - The CW San Diego - News 8

1st woman Marine to command combat unit at Camp Pendleton

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SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) - A historic change of command took place at Camp Pendleton, as the first woman to command a Marine ground combat arms unit took charge.

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

"She wouldn’t be in the position she is in now, if she wasn’t darn good," said Macander's former commanding officer, Col. Patrick "Paddy" Gough, who is retired from the USMC.

U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Michelle I. Macander, incoming commanding officer of 1st Combat Engineer Battalion (CEB), 1st Marine Division, gives a speech during a change of command ceremony at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., June 22, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Audrey C. M. Rampton)

The ceremony last Friday was held as a formal transfer of authority and responsibility – and was also a historic change of command.

"I think it will send a message to a lot of young ladies out there, that you can live your dream and become a Marine and rise to the highest level within the Marine Corps.," said Col. Gough. "And have the coolest job on the planet, which is commanding the United States Marines.”

Gough served as a former commanding officer and understands the rigorous job ahead for Macander. He says she will likely be in command from 18 months to two years – her time will be dictated by the deployment schedule of the unit.

As leader of the combat engineer battalion, she will be sending out smaller detachments.

U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Michelle I. Macander, commanding officer of 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Audrey C. M. Rampton)

In a statement from Lt. Col. Michelle I. Macander she said:

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.

“As long as this Marine is willing to get out in front of her troops and lead them by her personal example they’ll have absolutely no problem following her anywhere," said Col. Gough.

According to the Marine Corps, they have been making progress in gender integration across the combat arms as female Marines begin to fill out jobs and units that were previously closed to women.

Infantry was first opened to women in 2012. By the end of 2015, all jobs were opened to women by the Pentagon.

The Corps says 38 women have tried to become infantry officers, but only eight have completed the course. 

Marine Corps Times reported in early March that there were about 10 female officers serving as combat engineer officers, and there were about 16 enlisted combat engineers.

According to Macander's Marine Corps biography, she 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.

U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Michelle I. Macander, commanding officer of 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division, sits with her family during a change of command ceremony at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., June 22, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Audrey C. M. Rampton)

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