MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. – When Lance Cpl. Shannon R. Bandy joined the Marine Corps, she wanted to become a military police officer. That didn’t happen, but as an aircraft rescue and firefighting specialist here, she’s happy with the way it turned out. “I like being a firefighter, because it’s what most of us look up to,” she said. “What young child doesn’t want to be in the midst of what’s happening when they see a fire truck?” Bandy said she loves her job and the responsibility that comes with it. She also is proud to be part of a job field that used to be closed to women. “One day a colonel in the Air Force looked at me and said, ‘You’re rare because you’re a female Marine, but you are even more of a rare breed because you’re a female firefighter.’” Women have played integral roles in the Marine Corps since 1918, and they now serve in 93 percent of all occupational fields and 62 percent of all Marine Corps billets. With the recent repeal of combat exclusion rules, women soon may integrate into nearly every Marine occupational specialty. Being a firefighter is more than just extinguishing fires, Bandy said. The Johnston City, Ill., native explained that she also works with chemicals and hazardous materials daily and responds to incidents such as fuel spills, fires and aircraft experiencing technical issues. Science plays a major role in how she does her job, Bandy said. Aircraft rescue and firefighting specialists must know critical information about chemical bonds and which chemicals can safely put out a fire, she added. She stressed the importance of knowing how some could even create potential hazards. “When in an emergency, I have to think quickly, but also use good judgment,” she said. “At any given time, I could hold a Marine’s life in my hands.” Tools of the trade assist Bandy and her fellow Marines, making their lives easier. They are responsible for operating their P-19 crash fire rescue vehicles and the equipment they employ. “I rely on my favorite tool, the K-12 fire-rescue saw. It can cut through anything like butter,” Bandy said. She also takes her responsibility as a team member seriously. “From boot camp on, we are taught to take care of the Marines beside you,” Bandy said. “If I needed to, in an instant I would give up my life to save one of my brothers or sisters to my left and right.”
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