When Carol Mutter joined the Marine Corps nearly three decades ago, women weren't allowed to be generals.
Tuesday, with a parade, a marching band and a 19-gun salute, she became the Marines' first female three-star general.
"Every time you have the first person through a door that has been closed before, it makes it that much easier for the people behind," Mutter said.
Mutter stood at attention at Quantico Marine Base as a medal was pinned to her uniform, promoting her from major general to one of the service's nine lieutenant generals, the Marines' second-highest rank. The highest is four-star general.
Mutter, who became a Marine officer in 1967, will head the Manpower and Reserve Affairs operation at Marine headquarters in Washington, D.C.
"We're not doing this as a signal," said Gen. Charles Krulak, Marine commandant. "We gave it to her because she's the best Marine general for the job."
The audience of about 300 chuckled when instead of the customary bouquet presented to the promoted officer's spouse, Mutter gave her husband a box of nails.
The gift will be used to renovate the couple's new quarters in Washington, said James Mutter, a retired Marine colonel.
Mutter is the third woman to become a Marine general and is the only one currently serving.
She joins Navy Vice Adm. Patricia Tracey as the only women in the armed forces to wear three stars.