Marine Sgt. Kelly Brown Trains For Front-Line Combat Role
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And the Pentagon says it wants women in front-line combat roles by early 2016. Before that can happen, women have to prove they're up to the task. To that end, the Marine Corps is conducting a year-long assessment starting with about 100 female Marines training alongside men. Among the drills, they'll be holding 30-pound ammunition boxes above their heads for two minutes and be part of artillery crews to set up and dismantle heavy guns over and over. Our Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman brought us a report earlier this week from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. This morning, we're joined by one of those Marines - Sgt. Kelly Brown. Good morning.
SERGEANT KELLY BROWN: Good morning.
MONTAGNE: Now, I think most people would think on the outside that the toughest thing for a woman is really physical. I mean, women are smaller. It's as simple as that. How do you approach that? What do you think?
BROWN: I believe that it's mental. You can train your body to do anything. And with the right frame of mind and the right positive mental attitude and just the determination, you can absolutely accomplish those tasks. Yes, it may be harder, but you just have to work that much harder.
MONTAGNE: Now, when we say physical, we're talking Marines; we're talking serious physical challenges.
MONTAGNE: What were maybe the hardest for you to do?
BROWN: I would say when we work more in the field doing, let's say, a stress shoot where, you know, you're in full combat load having to do different exercises, then go up and, you know, fire on the line, trying to control your breathing, just getting used to running around with the heavier weight and how you can condition your body to do that.
MONTAGNE: And heavier weight is how heavy?
BROWN: Eighty pounds. We're going to get up to the standard - for the rifleman is 114 pounds.
MONTAGNE: And may I ask how much you weigh?
BROWN: About 130.
MONTAGNE: So that's a challenge.
MONTAGNE: Well, you're at the beginning of this. So far how have your male fellow Marines responded?
BROWN: They have been very supportive. Their mentality is the same. If you can bring to the fight the same thing as the males can, well, then join us, but it's about combat effectiveness. That's their stance, and that's what's most important.
MONTAGNE: Is it also more than carrying 100 pounds perhaps in the hot sun over long distances? I mean, is it also something that is being tested here about one's inner ability to fight the fight, and then continue to fight the fight and then fight the fight some more?
BROWN: Absolutely. Absolutely, and it's the same as, you know, a female starting out doing this and then a male starting out doing this. You know, you all have to start; you all have a baseline as a Marine that you start off with, and you have to train yourself. That's what we do - we train; we train for the fight; we train for the fight. And you eventually get to a point where you can accomplish any mission or accomplish any task.
MONTAGNE: What about your family? Because you're really talking about taking it as far as it can go.
BROWN: They're very supportive. I'm very competitive by nature, always have been. I always look for the challenge, look for what I can improve on and take it to the next level. So they support it. They already know I'm going to go for it.
MONTAGNE: Probably before you did it, right?
MONTAGNE: (Laughter) Let me just ask you a personal question. What's up for Thanksgiving?
BROWN: I'm going to be seeing my family and spending some time with - I have nieces and taking my son to go see his family, and just spending time with them and eating some food and playing with all of the kids - taking a little mental break and taking care of that aspect.
MONTAGNE: Well, happy Thanksgiving to you.
BROWN: Happy Thanksgiving to you.
MONTAGNE: Sgt. Kelly Brown joined us on the phone from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. She's one of the first women training for combat roles in the Marines. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.