VEVAY – Pvt. Kassandra Woodward plans to be one of the first to serve in the Marine Corps infantry when – or if – military officials allow women to fill those roles.
Shes already passed the training to show that she – and 12 other women serving in the Marine Corps so far – meet the requirements men must pass to serve in the infantry, yet it could be years before the Marine Corps allows women to serve beside male members.
Still, military officials have begun to evaluate the possibility of lifting infantry gender restrictions that have been in place since the Marine Corps began in 1775.
Woodward, a Vevay native, is the first woman from Indiana to graduate from the Marine Corps Infantry Training Battalion at Camp Geiger in North Carolina.
I want to be in the infantry, she told the Madison Courier. I want to prove we (women) can do it.
Woodward has known she wanted to join a branch of the military since she was in elementary school.
Her father spent 13 years in the Marine Corps and her mother had been in the Navy, so she wanted to be in the military as well.
She decided to join the Marines after graduating from Switzerland County High School in May. She went through boot camp before learning of the voluntary program for women to go through the Infantry Training Battalion.
The training just opened to women during the fall of 2013 as part of research by the military about possibly opening infantry roles.
Marine Corps officials hope to send 300 women through the program next fall, but officials have said they dont plan to open any of the infantry fields before 2015 at the earliest.
Even though other recruits from boot camp tried to talk her out of the choice, Woodward knew she wanted to go through the course – voluntary or not.
They treated us just the same, Woodward said of training instructors.
The course was very tough and very hard, with instructors yelling at everyone – male or female.
Training includes a live-fire exercise, a 20-kilometer hike with a 90-pound pack, infantry field exercises and physical fitness tests that involved running, pullups and a timed obstacle course.
Yet not everyone accepts the idea that women are training for infantry roles.
There was one (male recruit) that didnt think we should be there, Woodward said.
That recruit changed his mind about halfway through the course once he saw everyone do the same physical training without any special treatment.
Woodward graduated in the second group of women allowed to go through the training in December. Thirteen women began the 59-day program, but not all made it through the intensive training. Nine women completed the program, and another woman from the first group completed her requirements in December after becoming injured during the earlier training.
Three women had graduated from the training course in November.
This isnt the first time Woodward has broken through gender barriers. She was the first female wrestler at Switzerland County High School to successfully pin a male opponent.
But her most recent achievement doesnt even compare, she said.
Theres so much more pride in this, she said.
While waiting for the opportunity to join the infantry, Woodward and the other female graduates of the Infantry Training Battalion will go on to military occupational specialty school assignments. Woodwards next assignment with the Marine Corps will be at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, where she will to train in motor transport.