The Fewer, The Prouder

August 21, 2018 - 7:15 am
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By Scott A. Huesing  Special to ConnectingVets.com

If U.S. Marine First Lieutenant Marina A. Hierl is ‘the fewer.’ I am ‘the prouder’ in this case. Unequivocally, she embodies ‘The Few. The Proud’ in the Marine Corps’ widely recognized moniker. She’s the first woman to serve as a U.S. Marine Infantry Officer, and I’m proud that she is doing it in the unit I commanded as we fought in the deadly streets of Ramadi, Iraq in 2006—Echo Company, 2d Battalion, 4th Marines, affectionately called, “The Magnificent Bastards.”

To say Hierl leads, trains, and motivates a forty-man platoon of infantry Marines would be a thing of the past—now it is a forty-person platoon. The bar has been set not to a different standard, but a new standard that at age 24, Hierl has the daunting responsibility to define on her own.  When most naysayers scoff at her historic accomplishments and assume that she is just an anomaly, a test case, or some phenom that slipped through the cracks of the Infantry Officers Course (IOC) in Quantico, Virginia—they’re wrong. Having personally gone through the thirteen-week, unrelenting bastion of patrolling, tactics, and hiking I can assure you that no one ‘slips through’ IOC. 

I’ve absorbed my share of electronic sniper attacks and snide comments from friends, fellow Marines, and total strangers about my approval of this landmark shift impacting a male-dominated profession.

I recently got a message from a friend who asked, “if she can do it?” My response was quick. It’s not a matter of “if” she can do it—she’s doing it. I belayed their concerns by saying, “The U.S. Marine Corps and its leadership don’t make moves like this on a whim. It is always based on the right person, for the right job, for the right reason. That’s Hierl.”

Hierl is making an impact. The impact she’s making as a leader of Marines may not be apparent to her at the moment. That’s the thing about leadership and making an impact—sometimes you don’t see it at the moment. Sometimes it takes ten, twenty, or fifty years to realize the impact you’ve made on those you lead. 

I don’t need to delve into the long history of the role females have played in the military over the centuries, both in the U.S. and around the world—it’s an undisputed fact they have been there all along.  I’ve known and fought alongside many.

I’ve written and talked extensively about how we punted female combat-integration into the grandstands of life as a military. Our own cultural hubris, or foolishness, perhaps. We failed to effectively employ the talents of female warriors as we fought for over a decade and use their skill to tap into the other half of an entire population in Iraq—women. Let that sink in for a second. Fifty-percent of a country glossed over because we couldn’t get past gender differences and wrap our heads around how to make it work.

Collectively we failed because we didn’t understand that part of the culture the way it needed to be understood, leveraged for information, and help us win a brutal insurgent war.

We can't move forward and continue to miss out on the talent of the other half of the population. The standard for our warriors remains the same. Those who meet it and redefine it will change. I’m proud of Hierl and her accomplishments—prouder to call her a fellow Magnificent Bastard.  Semper Fi. 

Major Scott A. Huesing USMC (Ret) is the bestselling author of Echo in Ramadi – The Firsthand Story of U.S. Marines in Iraq’s Deadliest City(Regnery, 2018). He is a proven combat leader with 10 deployments over his career to include Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa. He has planned, led, and conducted hundreds of combat missions.