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Two female Marine cannoneers are now howitzer section chiefs

Two female Marines have passed the Corps’ howitzer section chief course ― accomplishing another milestone for female integration in the Marine Corps nearly four years after combat jobs were first opened to women.

A howitzer section chief is the artillery equivalent of a squad leader, responsible for maintaining, aiming and firing the Corps’ M777 155 mm howitzer along with leading a crew of eight to 10 Marines required to fire the gun.

The first female Marine to pass the demanding course was Cpl. Shannon Lilly with with Gulf Battery, 2nd Battalion, 10th Marines, based out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, a Marine Corps spokeswoman told Marine Corps Times on Monday.

Lilly passed the course in December 2019, according to 2nd Marine Division spokeswoman Sgt. Gloria Lepko.

Cannoneer Marine Cpl. Shannon Lilly is bitten by military working dog, Robby, during a bite demonstration on the flight deck of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship Kearsarge (LHD 3) in May 2019. (Sgt. Aaron Henson/Marine Corps)
Cannoneer Marine Cpl. Shannon Lilly is bitten by military working dog, Robby, during a bite demonstration on the flight deck of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship Kearsarge (LHD 3) in May 2019. (Sgt. Aaron Henson/Marine Corps)

Though Lilly was the first female Marine to pass the course, it was not long before a fellow female cannoneer from the West Coast joined her as a section chief.

On Feb. 14, Cpl. Julianna Yakovac, with Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 11th Marines, based on Camp Pendleton, California, passed the course and become eligible to fire the howitzer, 1st Lt. Cameron Edinburgh, a spokesman for the 1st Marine Division, told Marine Corps Times.

The two trailblazing cannon cockers join a long line of female Marines who continue to break barriers in jobs they were once barred from.

During the summer of 2019 Capt. Anneliese Satz became the first female Marine F-35B pilot, while 1st Lt. Catherine Stark was selected to become the first female Marine to fly the F-35C.

Also in 2019, Lance Cpl. Alexa Barth became the female Marine to graduate from the grueling 12-week Basic Reconnaissance Course, earning the elite 0321 reconnaissance Marine military occupational specialty.

Overall, 2019 saw a 60 percent jump in women serving in previously all-male units, according to numbers from a December 2019 quarterly briefing from the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services.

Marines with the Ground Combat Element, Marine Rotational Force–Darwin, fire an M777 howitzer during Exercise Koolendong at Mount Bundey Training Area, Australia, Aug. 27, 2019. (Lance Cpl. Nicholas Filca/Marine Corps)
Marines with the Ground Combat Element, Marine Rotational Force–Darwin, fire an M777 howitzer during Exercise Koolendong at Mount Bundey Training Area, Australia, Aug. 27, 2019. (Lance Cpl. Nicholas Filca/Marine Corps)
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