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Women Gain Ground at Citadel

The Citadel (search) has been adding women to its corps of cadets in a slow transition that began 10 years ago.

Shannon Faulkner (search), who waged an intense legal battle to become the first female cadet, dropped out after only six days.

The following year, two more women dropped out after complaining of hazing.

Now, almost a decade later, there are 118 female cadets enrolled at the Citadel — 6 percent of the total student population.

"It took ... about 4 to 6 years to really get it ingrained into the cadets that women at the Citadel are business as usual," said Citadel Commandant of Cadets Brig. Gen. James Emory Mace, who was brought in to oversee the transition.

In 1999, Mace's own daughter became the first female cadet to graduate from the Citadel.

"I'd send my daughter here," said Nancy Mace (search), who wrote about the experiences in her book, "In the Company of Men."

However, the experiences of women cadets haven't been easy; the Citadel is not easy regardless of your gender or who your father is.

Brig. Gen. Mace gave his daughter some fatherly advice when she got in: "Don't call me for help. You gotta make it on your own. And if you do call, I won't help you. You gotta do it like any other cadet."

Women cadets now are quick to point out that they're at the Citadel based on merit and that they have no social agenda.

"We don't come here to prove a point. We don't come here thinking I'm a girl, I'm here to prove something or to set myself apart in this way," said Olivia Perry Smith (search), a graduating senior.

And while the Citadel's demographics have changed over the last 162 years, the rite of passage for graduating cadets has not.

"The one thing that is most important about a Citadel graduate is the fact that they can say, as they lift their hand and show you their ring — and the women do it as proudly as the men do — that they can say, 'I wear the ring,' said Citadel President Maj. Gen. John Grinalds (search).

Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by Fox News' Jonathan Serrie.