It’s 0300, and I’m sitting in the Combat Operations Center inthe middle of nowhere Camp Pendleton.  Inthe distance, I hear loud explosions.  “FIREMISSION, NUMBER 4, 3 ROUNDS” the radio operator barks.  I’m exhausted and I’m counting down theminutes until I hear “END OF MISSION.”  I’ma Communications Officer and I’ve been in the Marine Corps for two years.

Earlierthis week, I checked into 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines (2/11) by order of the Commandantof the Marine Corps.  I’m one ofthirty-five females across the Marine Corps selected to serve in a combat unit.  I’m the first female officer in the historyof this unit.  The week has been long,and I’ve been chewed out more than once by my superiors.  I’ve thought about crying a couple of times.  It’s not that I haven’t been this mentallyand physically exhausted before, because I have, in the two years of trainingit took to get here.  This is different,though.  I’m in the field with 400 alpha males,attempting to prove that I belong.

  I’m notin training anymore.  I’m in charge of 60men, accountable for preparing them to deploy around the world and succeed incombat environments.  They’re myresponsibility.  I’m their leader. “ENDOF MISSION.

”  I’m unique.  I didn’tknow it that night, but that’s what prepared me to lead 60 men who had neverworked for a woman.  I would contributesomething to those Marines unlike anything else: a distinctive perspective thatonly I could share because of my experiences – because I’m unique. I’m unique because my mom gave birth to me at 18 yearsold.  I lived on a farm with mygrandparents while she left to make a better life for me.  These formative years with my grandparentswould instill in me a strong work ethic and purposeful approach to life. I’m unique because I grew up with two military parents.

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  I saw them in military uniforms, watched themleave for and come back from deployments, and felt the pride they exudedbecause of it.  This imparted on me asense of honor, courage, and commitment at an early age. I’m unique because I was the first woman at a Marine Corpscombat arms unit.  My Marine Corpsexperience pushed me outside of my comfort zone and taught me how to lead, and howto fit in despite being a woman.   I’m unique because I am a wife, and a wannabe mother.  I’ve learned patience through multiplemiscarriages and have found strength in the things I cannot control.

 My life experiences thus far have made me the person that Iam today. The way I was brought up and the things I’ve learned have cometogether to make me a unique individual. It’s the combination of everything that I’ve experienced and the variousthings I’ve done that make me unique. I hope for UCLA Anderson to be my nextexperience, making me even more unique than I already am.