The life story of Private First Class Maria Daume is very different from anyone else in the United States Marines.
She was born in a prison in Siberia. Her parents died when she was two years old.
Two years later, she was adopted by Americans. They agreed to take Maria in and treat her as their own child. She moved to the United States, and was raised in New York.
Last week, the 19-year-old Maria Daume made history. She completed special training at the Marine School of Infantry in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Daume has done what many people said a woman would never do. She is the first female Marine to join the infantry through the traditional entry-level training process. The system was opened to women just six months ago.
Daume told VOA she knows what she did was historic.
“I like to prove people wrong and just because you are a female doesn’t mean you can’t do what a male can do.”
The Mortar Marine class that she completed is one of the most difficult in the Marines. And Marine officials say it is becoming even more difficult.
Marine Sargent Matthew Schneider was one of Daume’s instructors. He says Daume was a good student.
“She was right at the top of the pack.”
To pass the training, Daume climbed a 142 centimeter-high wall while carrying all of her equipment. She had to lift a 36 kilogram MK19 heavy machine gun above her head. And she had to complete other gun exercises and skill tests.
The completion of Daume’s training came at the same time as a scandal has hit the U.S. Marine Corps.
A private Facebook group called “Marines United” has been linked to photographs of military women on social media. The photos show the women wearing little or no clothing.
Tens of thousands of Marines and retired Marines reportedly belonged to the Facebook group. Their posts often had sexist, derogatory comments. Some even talked about rape and molestation.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has launched an investigation, which has reportedly spread to other U.S. military services.
General Robert Neller is the Commandant of the Marine Corps. He told members of Congress this month that he was shocked and angered when he heard about the Facebook group. He said some members of the group appeared to “have forgotten that every member of our team is an equal and valued member of our Corps.”
“How much more do the females of our Corps have to do to be accepted? We all have to commit to getting rid of this perversion to our culture. Enough is enough!”
Experts hope Private First Class Daume’s success will persuade more women to join the Marines despite the scandal.
Katherine Kidder is with the Military, Veterans and Society Program of the Center for a New American Security.
“This may be the way to bridge the gap and bring more women into the infantry, and therefore make them feel like colleagues with their infantry counterparts.”
The U.S. Marines now have four women serving in the infantry. Three are based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Daume and four Marines who completed their infantry training at the same time are now based at Camp Pendleton, near San Diego, California.
I’m Dorothy Gundy.
VOA Pentagon Correspondent Carla Babb reported this story from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. John Smith adapted her reporting for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
adopt – v. to take a child of other parents legally as your own child
infantry – n. the part of an army that has soldiers who fight on foot
instructor – n. a person who teaches a subject or skill; someone who instructs people
pack – n. a group of similar people or things
scandal – n. an occurrence in which people are shocked and upset because of behavior that is morally or legally wrong
derogatory – adj. expressing a low opinion of someone or something; showing a lack of respect for someone or something
molest – v. to harm (someone) through sexual contact; to touch (someone) in a sexual and improper way
perversion – n. sexual behavior that people think is not normal or natural
bridge the gap – expression to make a bridge over or across (something) -- usually used figuratively
counterpart – n. someone or something that has the same job or purpose as another