1/2/2014 3:00:00 PM BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS Switzerland Co. grad, first woman in Indiana to pass Marine Corps infantry training, looks to expand roles for women in USMC
Kassandra Woodward smiles while talking about being the first woman in Indiana to complete the Marine Corps Infantry Training Battalion course. Woodward, of Vevay, and 12 other women have graduated through the ITB since it was opened up to them in 2013. Woodward, who hopes to serve for a full 20 years in the Marine Corps, said she joined because she wanted to prove that women could perform alongside the men. Even though Woodward and the other female graduates successfully completed the ITB, they will still have to work in non-infantry related job fields in the Corps. Woodward’s next stop will be Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, where she will train to be a truck driver. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchieemail@example.com)
Kassandra Woodward talks with state Rep. Randy Frye (R-Greensburg) at the Switzerland County Courthouse on Tuesday, just before Frye recognized Woodward for being the first woman in Indiana to complete the Marine Corps Infantry Training Battalion course. Frye presented Woodward with a certificate and a U.S. flag that has flown over the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchiefirstname.lastname@example.org)
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.
She's already passed the training to show 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 allow 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 said. "I want to prove we (women) can do it."
Woodward knew she wanted to join a branch of the military since she was in elementary school. Her father had served 13 years in the Marine Corps and her mother had served in the Navy, so she wanted to serve in the military as well.
She decided to join the Marines after graduating from Switzerland County High School in May 2013 and 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 ongoing 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 don't 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, pull-ups and a timed obstacle course. Women have to complete and pass all of the same requirements by the men's standards, she said.
Yet not everyone accepts the idea that women are training for infantry roles.
"There was one (male recruit) that didn't 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 isn't the first time Woodward has broken through gender barriers either. She was the first female wrestler at Switzerland County High School to successfully pin a male opponent.
But her most recent achievement doesn't even compare, she said.
"There's so much more pride in this," she said.
While waiting for the opportunity to serve in the infantry, Woodward and the other female graduates of the Infantry Training Battalion will go on to military occupational specialty school assignments. Woodward's next assignment with the Marine Corps will be at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, where she will to train in motor transport.