From ‘Beauty Queens’ To Warriors, Young Women Make History On Parris Island As First To Graduate With Infantry Contracts

By Liz Farrell The Island Packet (Hilton Head Island, S.C.)

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Meet the women who are breaking new ground and changing the face of the military in extraordinary ways.

The Island Packet (Hilton Head Island, S.C.)

She was told not to do it.

In fact, she was told she would regret it.

But, just like the thousands upon thousands of newly anointed Marines before her, she was too tired and hungry and excited to heed the advice.

By the end of the Warriors Breakfast on Jan. 7 -- which is to say, after 54 hours of long marches, heavy loads and tests of physical and mental endurance -- Maria Daume had managed to stuff down four plates of food, each containing its own slice of cake.

And then, just like those thousands upon thousands before her, she paid the price for her post-Crucible gluttony, her first meal as a Marine after her final test to become one.

Back at the barracks, she found a laundry bag full of dirty clothes and collapsed on top of it. She lay there on her side for a long while.

"I was so sick," she said.

Later, when she was able to call home, she told her grandmother how ill she felt.

"Go to the doctor's office," her grandmother, Mary Dawson, said.

"Umm..." Daume, 18, laughed telling the story later.

She tried to explain to her grandmother how this was recruit training; she couldn't just get up and leave and go to any old doctor's office as if she were a civilian.

"Tell them your grandmother says so," her grandmother said emphatically.

Daume smiled.

"She doesn't understand all this," she said Friday, her grandmother just a short distance away, standing and beaming on the parade deck of Parris Island with the rest of Daume's family, friends and even friends' families, a talkative and happy crowd who had come from Long Island, N.Y., to see her graduate.

For Daume, "all this" is not just completing boot camp and becoming a Marine, though. She is among the first women in the history of the Marine Corps to finish recruit training with every job available to her.

She is also one of the first four women in the history of the Marine Corps to graduate with an infantry contract in hand.

Having an infantry contract means that these women have qualified to continue their entry-level training in ground combat at the School of Infantry at Camp Geiger in North Carolina, training that was previously unavailable to them.

If they meet the training standards there, they will then be billeted to combat arms units and join the three female Marines who completed the school of infantry as part of the Corps' years-long, gender-integration research and who earlier this month became the first female Marines to join an infantry unit at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Jobs in infantry include rifleman, scout sniper, armor Marine, machine gunner, anti-tank missile Marine and infantry assault Marine. Many of the infantry job titles have been changed by the Marines to replace the word "man" with "Marine."

Nearly 100 years after Opha May Johnson became the first woman to enlist in the Marines and less than 40 years after women were considered half a man to recruiters' quotas, this is merely the next generation of those who, since the Civil War, have had to daily prove themselves to be as capable and as worthy to fight for their country and their values in the same way men do.

These young women, who are still finding ways to be "firsts" in 2017, will now venture forth to extend the beaten path a little farther for the Marines who follow, including the four other women currently on Parris Island hoping to graduate with infantry contracts next.

'She could do anything' Maj. Gen. Loretta Reynolds, who was the first woman to command Parris Island, from 2011 to 2014, returned to Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Friday.

She was there for the retirement of Sgt. Maj. Angela Maness, one of the top officers at Parris Island and the first woman to assume the duties of senior enlisted Marine at Marine Barracks Washington in 2013, a job that is known as the oldest in the Corps, according to the Women Marines Association.

Both were at the graduation Friday, and Reynolds served as the reviewing officer for the ceremony.

Recruit Depot spokesman Capt. Gregory Carroll tells me this is just a coincidence.

But as the announcer read Reynolds' list of accomplishments to the new Marines and their families Friday morning -- something that took a full four minutes to complete -- it was hard to ignore the symbolism of her presence.

Sue Chabut of Bloomingburg, N.Y., sat nearby in the first row of the bleachers with her son, Jason.

They were there to see Sue's granddaughter -- Jason's daughter -- Ashley, who was the honor graduate in her platoon in Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, the all-woman company on base staff only by female drill instructors and officers.

Ashley, she said, hopes to become an assistant recruiter.

As the announcer listed Reynolds' billets, her prestigious training and the honors she's received over the years, Sue Chabut made small sounds of approval.

At the end, she let out a breath.

"What a career she's had," she said slowly and quietly. "Wow."

And then she went back to peering through her binoculars so she could see her first-born grandchild in the distance.

Sue told me that her granddaughter is also the first Marine in their family.

"It's the only thing she's ever wanted to do," she said.

"Do you know what inspired her to want to become a Marine?" I asked.

Sue shook her head, mystified.

"You know ... I don't know."

When the new Marines were dismissed, Sue's son -- a proud man who, during the ceremony and as his daughter received special recognition and was presented with a plaque, appeared to be giving it his all to keep his emotions under control -- shot up and out of his seat to go find his daughter among the masses.

Without a moment of hesitation. In that crowd, and after some effort, I found Pfc. Maria Daume, who was one of 626 new Marines and one of 120 new female Marines, who graduated Friday.

I knew what she looked like. She had been interviewed several times for stories and news segments, including on "Fox and Friends" and ABC News. I had seen her looking tough and throwing frightening punches on camera as a poolee. I had seen her looking girly and gorgeous in her $500 on-point cut-away prom gown on Facebook.

In person, though, she looked like every other Marine. Only vaguely identifiable. Her posture exact. Her chin pitched slightly forward. Her eyes impassive.

When we sat down to talk, she transformed again to an exuberant teenager who talks rapidly and certainly, with a deep Long Island accent.

Daume's story is usually written the same way. She was born in a Siberian prison, described as hellish, and she lived there with her mother and twin brother for two years until her mother's death.

She and her twin, Nikolai, then lived in a Russian orphanage until they were 4 and adopted by a couple, Maureen and John Daume, from the United States.

Daume doesn't remember a lot from that time. But to this day, she will not drink apple juice.

Apple juice is what they drank in that orphanage, and Russian orphanage apple juice is different from the sweet American variety.

The kind of different that leaves a lasting and gagging impression.

"They made it by putting rotten apple in water," she told me.

Her adoption is interesting in that her mother still worries that she'll be taken from her. Daume was bullied for being adopted. And she's still being adopted in a sense, by friends who are drawn to her, by her friends' families who adore her, by mentors and supporters and even by the Marine Corps.

Related News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *