News: The women of 2nd LAAD: It's not about equality, it's about opportunities
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. — On June 1, Staff Sgt. Jennifer J. Martin checked into 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, an air defense unit formerly comprised of only male Marines.
As guided by the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2012, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos created opportunities for female Marines to serve roles in units traditionally closed to women, beginning in April of this year.
“As I walked up to the front doors in my alpha’s to check in as one of the first female members of the unit, I didn’t know what to expect,” said Martin.
Martin was one of two female Marines assigned billets at 2nd LAAD, along with Gunnery Sgt. Carolyn A. Dukes.
When the order came down to send females to designated units, higher headquarters gathered all of the female staff noncommissioned officers and officers who were qualified for the billets and narrowed it down to 44 female Marines, said Martin.
“I don’t know why I was chosen specifically,” said Martin. “After I realized I was selected from the pool of about 400 qualified NCOs and officers, I had a ‘wow’ moment. I could not believe I was one of only 44 Marines chosen.”
Martin said she experienced the same nervousness and anxiety other Marines feel when checking into a new unit.
“We all wonder what our new unit will be like, what job we will be doing and what the Marines will be like,” she said. “I was never worried about being a female, going to a low altitude air defense battalion.”
Nixing the notion that any female Marine would be treated differently in his battalion, Sgt. Maj. Robert P. Palechek, the unit’s senior enlisted leader, said, “We understand what it means to be professional. The new Marines will be treated with respect.”
The majority of the Marines at 2nd LAAD have worked with females over the course of their careers, said Martin. “I don’t think my presence here has affected them. They always greet me with ‘good morning’ or ‘good afternoon, staff sergeant,’ and they continue on with whatever they were doing.”
Females in other professions have jobs that are equally dangerous, and they risk their lives and put themselves in harm’s way every day, added Martin.
“No one ever asks female firefighters and police officers to choose other career paths,” she said.
Gen. Amos’ initiative allows the Marine Corps to begin assigning unrestricted female company grade officers, gunnery sergeants and staff sergeants to artillery, tank, assault amphibian, combat engineer, combat assault and LAAD units, continuing their primary job. Eligible motor transport Marines are currently being assigned, which is how Martin received the assignment.
Since reporting to her new unit, she has assumed duties as the motor transport chief. Martin said she has three motor vehicle operators, six mechanics and four utility Marines working under her charge.
In her 13 years in the Corps, Martin has had her share of experiences. She deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006, going on convoys and driving trucks about three to four times a week as a vehicle recovery operator.
Due to the demands of her job, Martin said she does not get to interact with her Marines as much as she would like. “If I could, I would be out there working on the trucks with them every day.
“Being here is no different than being a part of any other squadron or unit,” she said.
Lance Cpl. Daniel E. Paxtot, a data clerk with the unit, said he’s optimistic about the new changes.
“Staff Sgt. Martin is very knowledgeable and has experience all Marines can learn from,” he said.
Although Martin is unsure of what the future holds for her at her new unit, she hopes to deploy with them in the future, and plans to stay in the Marine Corps until she retires.
“I never thought I would be here,” she said. “I am honored.”
This work, The women of 2nd LAAD: It's not about equality, it's about opportunities, by LCpl Andrea Cleopatra Dickerson, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.
Date Posted:08.17.2012 14:21
Location:CHERRY POINT, NC, US
Hometown:REEDSVILLE, WI, US
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