Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Succeeding in the Marine Corps

I am what we call in recruiting a “proof source.”  Proof to other women that female Marines exist and can be successful in the 94 percent male Marine Corps.  When I was commissioned at the end of Officer Candidates School (OCS), I prayed each night that I would find the strength to be an effective leader of Marines.  It never occurred to me that I already had that strength and had demonstrated it at OCS which was why the Marine Corps had offered to commission me.

Eight years later, after six years of active duty service, I speak frequently with women who are preparing for OCS or recruit training by phone and using a Facebook group that I helped to create.  I am now confident that I have much to share with them about how to be successful in the Marine Corps. 

These women worry about the same things as their male counterparts, things like how to get in shape for recruit training, whether or not they will have to dye their hair back to its original color, and what kind of food will be served to them at the chow hall.  But they have a worry that is unique to women; they wonder:  if I work hard and earn the title of Marine, will I be accepted and treated equally by my male counterparts?  They want to know if the Marine Corps is really a place where women can succeed.  
The answer is yes, and no.  I was recently very impressed with an article in the New York Times about the Female Engagement Team (FET) in Afghanistan.  This article really showcased the work of female Marines and the difficulties for females within the Marine Corps.  The truth is that women are needed for challenging assignments that only they can perform.  Once they demonstrate their proficiency as warriors, as the women of the FET teams have repeatedly done, their male commanders look at them as an asset, but commanders never forget that they are female Marines and therefore different from their male counterparts.
But maybe that is as it should be.  Although I want equal pay for equal work, equal respect for a job well done, I am not a man and I do not believe pretending to be one is required for success.  I am proud to be a female Marine and the Marines with whom I work appreciate the different perspective that I bring, just as commanders in Afghanistan appreciate the unique skills of the women on the FET teams. 

For Women’s History Month in 2009, we interviewed eight female Marines of different ranks, military occupational specialties, races, and family backgrounds.  We asked each of them the question “What is Your Advice to Women Looking to be Successful in the Marine Corps?”  They all said the same thing in their own way:  “be yourself.”  For women who want to be accepted in the Marine Corps I tell you this:  it is as easy as believing in yourself, which for many of us is one of our greatest challenges.  

1 comment:

  1. Great article! As a female candidate for OCS this October, I can relate to some of the worries about being treated as an equal by male Marines, especially by my commanding officers.

    One of the most irritating attitudes I find among female Marines is when they try prove that they are as strong as a man (whether they are or not), rather than letting their performance speak for itself.

    Another important thing for female Marines is to carry their own weight and have their act together. Being prepared, capable and competent are really the factors that we will be judged by.

    Thanks for the links in this article, they were very informative. I look forward to continue following this blog.


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