Photo Information

Recruiting Station Milwaukee poolees are marched by Drill Instructor Sgt. Maria Arellano after performing an initial strength test during a female pool function March 30 at the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Center in Madison, Wis. RS Milwaukee recruiters hope a new focus on female-only functions will lower its female pool attrition rate, which is currently at 26 percent. Arellano is a drill instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C.

Photo by Cpl. David Rogers

Equality in Preparation

7 Jul 2009 | 9th Marine Corps District

Recruiting Station Milwaukee dramatically reduced its boot camp attrition rate for women over the past year from more than 26 percent to less than 14 percent so far this year (4 percent lower than the district average); now it's looking to a new emphasis on female-only pool functions and the roll-out of a district-wide, female-only social networking site, to tackle "pool" attrition for women back home, in the delayed entry program.

While the station's pool attrition for women last year mirrored the district average of more than 29 percent, it has already seen a 3-percent decline for FY09 (more than 2 percent lower than the district average) and is working to drive it even lower.

Sgt. Kimberly McBriar, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of Recruiting Substation Janesville, Wis., attributed the traditionally high pool attrition rate to a number of issues. For example, only 103 of the 3,050 Marine recruiters nationwide are women, according to the Marine Corps Recruiting Command. Female poolees rarely encounter a female Marine during their time in the Delayed Entry Program, a commitment to eventually enlist in the Marines and go to recruit training. Most Marine Corps applicants spend time as a member of the DEP. Recruiters use this time to mentally and physically prepare their “pool” of applicants for the rigors of recruit training.

“They feel they have a lack of confidence prior to boot camp when they’re with the males,” McBriar said. “Because males are typically stronger than females, they can out-shine them during physical training.”

McBriar and Recruiting Station Milwaukee’s substation staff noncommissioned officers-in-charge hosted a female-only pool function for 17 poolees and guests May 30 at the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Center in Madison, Wis. There they performed an initial strength test and received classes on military field rations and the M-16A2 service rifle. Sgt. Maria Arellano, a drill instructor from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., gave the recruits a lesson in drill and corrected them accordingly when she thought they weren’t paying attention. At the end of the event, poolees received the opportunity to speak with the drill instructor and other female Marines about life in the Marine Corps as a woman. Arellano had a few female-specific issues she wanted to stress to the poolees.

“The most common injuries that female recruits have during recruit training are hip fractures. Lower extremities are a big thing,” Arellano said. “A lot of (female recruits) have calcium pills, because of their low calcium level. I’m definitely going to address to them today to start drinking up all their milk. Physical fitness is always a big issue for females.”

RS Milwaukee recruiters have hosted these events for many years but recently put a stronger focus on the gatherings. The events are intended to keep the poolees motivated during their time in the DEP and educate them on physical fitness and mental discipline the women should develop before shipping to recruit training.

“It definitely gives them confidence that they can make it because other females have made it,” McBriar said. “It gives them a good dose of reality, especially when the drill instructors are there, on what boot camp is like. And a lot of them do doubt that they’re only going to be trained by females. They think they’re going to be screamed at by males.”

She also uses the opportunity to give her cell phone number to any girls who would like to call her with questions.

“I get calls from all over Wisconsin,” McBriar said. “They ask me what I thought about boot camp; how I felt. Guys are generally more macho saying, ‘It wasn’t bad. I wasn’t scared.’ Well, I’m going to tell them the truth. ‘Yeah, I was scared when I was going to boot camp. I was scared on that plane. I was scared on that bus. You overcome the fear.’”

Paige Draheim, an 18-year-old poolee from Rockford, Ill., joined the DEP June 10, 2008 and feels much more prepared than when she first joined.

“Before, I hardly ever worked out,” Draheim said. “Since I’ve been in, I’ve been working out like crazy. I go to every weekly pool function.”

The female pool functions she has attended allow her and her fellow female poolees to learn about the Marine Corps from experienced female Marines.

“It’s easier to ask questions to the girl Marines, because you don’t feel so awkward with all the boys,” Draheim said. “Like asking personal hygiene questions and stuff like that; It makes it easier.”

The group of female Marines that spoke with the poolees addressed issues such as maintaining physical fitness, appearance standards in uniform and keeping healthy relationships with male Marines.

“It’s unfortunate for female poolees who miss out on talking to a female who’s been in the Marine Corps for at least six or seven years, and the first female Marine they meet is a drill instructor at boot camp,” McBriar said. “That’s how I went. I’d rather have met a female recruiter and talked to her before I went.”

“If all the RS’s are not doing this, I think it hurts them. And they are hurting they’re females by not giving them that experience.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: While experienced female Marines are tough to come by in a district that has one female recruiter in its entire area, its new, private Facebook Group, "Future Female Marines of the Midwest," aims to minimize that deficit by building comraderie and ensuring seasoned advice is not far away. Female poolees can speak candidly with each other and view content about female Marines serving around the world, as well as get seasoned advice from SgtMcBriar and other female NCOs currently serving in the 9th Marine Corps District.

To become a part of the Group, female poolees should search for "Captain Amelia Kays", select the profile of Captain Kays in uniform, and request to be friends with Captain Kays. Once they are confirmed as members of the Delayed Entry Program, they will be invited to join the group, "Future Female Marines of the Midwest."

9th Marine Corps District