CHICAGO -- For some, serving in the U.S Armed Forces can be intimidating; for others, such as 18-year-old Jayleen Pagan of Chicago, it was a dream. That dream came true one afternoon in her high school cafeteria when she approached the Marine Corps career display and met Staff Sergeant Jose ParraTrevino, a Marine recruiter from Recruiting Substation DuPage North.
After being turned away many times due to her age, she was finally able to enlist into a Supply and accounting job after becoming of age. About two months before she was scheduled to ship to recruit training, Pagan was proposed with a new job option -- artillery. Without hesitation, she took it!
“I just want to blow things up and have fun while serving our country,” said Pagan.
On June 16, 2016, Pagan departed to Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., for 13-weeks where she trained to become a United States Marine. On Sept. 1, 2016, Private First Class Pagan walked tall across the parade deck having not only earned the title of U.S. Marine, but also the title of “Iron woman” for her outstanding physical excellence.
She is currently assigned United States Marine Corps Detachment, Fort Sill, Okla., as a Marine awaiting training at the Marine Artillery School where she will train to become the Marine Corps’ first female forward observer. A forward observer is a demanding and critical role on the battlefield. In order to ensure the welfare of our Marines in combat, these forward observers must be exceptionally qualified and carefully screened.
According to Pagan, some would doubt her and said things like, “The rounds are as big as you, how are you supposed to carry them?” while others who supported her said things like, “You’re making history, don't worry about what people say.”
In order to screen the students, they are put through a military occupational specialty specific physical standard test. For forward observers this includes: A 115 lbs., clean & press, a MK19 grenade machine gun press and a dummy drag of more than 200 lbs.
“I am not worried about the physical aspect,” Pagan said. “The instructor said I was the first female to pass the test on the first try.”
Pagan said out of all the students and staff, about 80 percent support her and believes she will make it, while the rest still have their doubts.
“It was exciting to learn that I was going to be the Marine Corps’ first female 0861 (artillery forward observer),” said Pagan. “When I originally accepted that job, I had no idea I would be the first.”
Pagan plans to make the Marine Corps a full career and hopes to be stationed at Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, upon graduation.