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(MARINE TIMES) -- Four women will graduate this week from the Marine Corps' enlisted infantry training course, Marine Corps Times has learned.

Their successful completion of the program, confirmed Monday by a Marine official with knowledge of ongoing efforts to determine what additional ground combat jobs should open to women, is a historic milestone, one that would suggest at least some female Marines posses both the physical strength and acumen to keep pace with their male counterparts on the battlefield. A graduation ceremony is scheduled for Thursday at Camp Geiger, N.C.

The four women are assigned to Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion, which is part of the Marine Corps' School of Infantry-East. Fifteen women began the 59-day course Sept. 24. By Oct. 28. the beginning of the grueling 12½-mile march - what many consider the course's most strenuous event - there were seven women remaining, along with 246 men.. It's not immediately clear how many men passed the course.

Throughout the training, female students were held to the same standards as men, Marine officials said. For example, during the 12½-mile march, all students were required to haul almost 90-pounds of combat gear. The women assigned to Delta Company also were required to perform pull-ups - not a flexed-arm hang - during their Physical Fitness Test.

The women who graduate from infantry training on Thursday will not be assigned to infantry units, nor will they earn an infantry occupational specialty. They will report to their originally slated schoolhouses to earn a non-combat MOS.

Since last year, new female lieutenants have been invited to attend the Corps' Infantry Officer Course at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.. To date, however, none has passed.

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