Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Breaking precedent, 59 women were among 400 recruits who entered boot camp at the previously all-male Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego this week.
The female recruits form one platoon in the six-platoon Lima Company, which was organized on Monday for a two-week quarantine period before their rigorous, 13-week training program begins. Integrated training began two years ago at the Marines' Parris Island, S.C., facility, but it is a first for the San Diego facility in its 98-year history of training recruits.
"We are all very proud to be part of it, and we're proud to help move our service forward," Capt. Martin Harris, depot communications director, told CBS San Diego. "The training is actually the same and the standards are exactly the same. Females showed up and we will train any recruits that show up that want to be Marines and we'll make Marines out of them."
The female recruits -- among around 20,000 who pass through boot camp at San Diego annually -- will have separate quarters, female drill instructors and a female series commander. The training is a head start on an order, part of the National Defense Authorization Act, mandating integration of women into training battalions by 2028.
"We can highlight what changes need to happen in either construction or personnel to be able to execute those before having todo it full time," added Harris.
Capt. Ashley Sands will serve as lead series commander.
"It's no different," sands said. "We're going to be training essentially the same ways that we have been for years, but I think it really is just a big moment in terms of being able to do this for the very first time."
The other U.S. services branches integrated their recruit training in the 1990s. About eight percent of current Marine personnel is female.
Col. Matt Palma, commanding officer of the Recruit Training Regiment at the base, said the new order is an opportunity for the Marine Corps.
"Female Marines have been serving in combat for years," Palma told NBC San Diego. "This is going to better prepare the Marines, for the reality of the Marine Corps. We may be able to recruit more young capable female recruits to come here."