It’s 0300, and I’m sitting in the Combat Operations Center in
the middle of nowhere Camp Pendleton.  In
the distance, I hear loud explosions.  “FIRE
MISSION, NUMBER 4, 3 ROUNDS” the radio operator barks.  I’m exhausted and I’m counting down the
minutes until I hear “END OF MISSION.”  I’m
a Communications Officer and I’ve been in the Marine Corps for two years. Earlier
this week, I checked into 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines (2/11) by order of the Commandant
of the Marine Corps.  I’m one of
thirty-five females across the Marine Corps selected to serve in a combat unit.  I’m the first female officer in the history
of this unit.  The week has been long,
and I’ve been chewed out more than once by my superiors.  I’ve thought about crying a couple of times.  It’s not that I haven’t been this mentally
and physically exhausted before, because I have, in the two years of training
it took to get here.  This is different,
though.  I’m in the field with 400 alpha males,
attempting to prove that I belong.  I’m not
in training anymore.  I’m in charge of 60
men, accountable for preparing them to deploy around the world and succeed in
combat environments.  They’re my
responsibility.  I’m their leader. “END
OF MISSION.”

 

I’m unique.  I didn’t
know it that night, but that’s what prepared me to lead 60 men who had never
worked for a woman.  I would contribute
something to those Marines unlike anything else: a distinctive perspective that
only I could share because of my experiences – because I’m unique.

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I’m unique because my mom gave birth to me at 18 years
old.  I lived on a farm with my
grandparents while she left to make a better life for me.  These formative years with my grandparents
would instill in me a strong work ethic and purposeful approach to life.

 

I’m unique because I grew up with two military parents.  I saw them in military uniforms, watched them
leave for and come back from deployments, and felt the pride they exuded
because of it.  This imparted on me a
sense of honor, courage, and commitment at an early age.

 

I’m unique because I was the first woman at a Marine Corps
combat arms unit.  My Marine Corps
experience pushed me outside of my comfort zone and taught me how to lead, and how
to fit in despite being a woman.  

 

I’m unique because I am a wife, and a wannabe mother.  I’ve learned patience through multiple
miscarriages and have found strength in the things I cannot control.

 

My life experiences thus far have made me the person that I
am today. The way I was brought up and the things I’ve learned have come
together to make me a unique individual. 
It’s the combination of everything that I’ve experienced and the various
things I’ve done that make me unique. I hope for UCLA Anderson to be my next
experience, making me even more unique than I already am.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I'm Joan!

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