Female Marine Poolee Raises Bar for Success

MONROE, N.C. -- Starting in January 2014, female Marines will be required to perform the same minimum of three pull-ups as required for male Marines. This new standard for female Marines does not concern poolee Paige C. Colburn of Monroe, N.C., because she is already performing nine dead-hang pull ups.

Colburn, who joined the Marine Corps Delayed Entry Program on Jan. 22, departed for recruit training on April 8. She is well aware of the new standard, but she plans to show others females are more than capable of meeting and exceeding the new standard.

“I am able to show what I have worked so hard for,” Colburn said, referring to her progression from two pull ups when she joined the DEP. “I never thought I would do nine pull ups. Now my goal is to reach 10.”

Colburn’s recruiter, Sgt. Christopher A. Moberg, of Recruiting Substation Monroe, Recruiting Station Columbia, said accountability is crucial in preparing young enlistees for the rigors associated with recruit training. The rotary-wing aircraft mechanic and former CH-46 crew chief said he and his fellow Marines expect their poolees to give 100 percent effort throughout their time in the DEP. This means poolees attending physical training sessions held every week, to include monthly pool functions.

Colburn is an example of a poolee who exceeded Moberg’s expectations. She not only attended every possible training event, which often included working out six days a week with a full-time job, but she also served as a leader among fellow poolees with less than three months in the program.

“She tends to downplay her own abilities, but she becomes unstoppable once she overcomes that,” Moberg said. “A lot of people follow her. When someone falls out of a run, we don’t have to tell her to go back to get that person. She doesn’t quit, and she’s not selfish at all. She leads by example.”

He said he and his fellow recruiters take an invested interest in each poolee’s development in the program. They want to ensure every poolee is mentally, morally and physically prepared for recruit training. Their training progression ensures poolees like Colburn are able to exceed standards. They also encourage poolees to take on leadership roles while in the DEP. This includes leading physical training sessions with the guidance and mentorship of their recruiters. This method draws out the leadership potential within each enlistee.

Colburn demonstrated her abilities during RS Columbia’s annual Female Pool Function held on Feb. 23, which evaluated each female enlistee’s ability to perform under intense stress. Drill instructors from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., attend the event each year to create an atmosphere similar to recruit training. During the event, drill instructors demand speed, volume, and intensity from poolees.

This year’s event served as an opportunity to test each female poolee’s ability to perform pull-ups. Colburn performed seven deadhang pull-ups during the event, two less than her current max.

“I was nervous because I did not know what to expect,” Colburn said. “Everyone hears about drill instructors and sees them in YouTube videos, but it’s difficult to understand without experiencing it firsthand. But weirdly enough, I wasn’t scared. I knew I had to keep a straight face, but I was smiling on the inside. It was everything I hoped it would be.”

Sgt. Alejandra Hernandez, a drill instructor with Company N, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, led the event and took the opportunity to inform the female enlistees about the future challenges they have to expect in recruit training.

The Chicago native, who has more than two years of experience as a drill instructor, said the Marine Corps is implementing more physical training focused on upper-body strength. She identified several activities, including the push press and clean press, in an effort to provide poolees with an idea of what to expect and how they can best prepare for the challenges to come.

“There are a lot of changes coming,” Hernandez said. “We will be conducting more combat conditioning. Recruits have to start preparing themselves before they ship to recruit training or else they will struggle even more.”

Hernandez, who will serve as a senior drill instructor with her next platoon, said the majority of recruits in her previous platoon could not perform any dead-hang pull ups upon arrival to recruit training. The majority of those recruits were able to perform an average of three pull ups upon graduation.

She used Colburn as an example of a recruit who will not only be successful in meeting the physical demands of recruit training, but also as a recruit who will be able to take on leadership roles, such as that of a guide or squad leader.

“I will be looking for recruits who can do it,” Hernandez said, noting the ability to perform above the physical fitness standard. “I will be looking for her to motivate other recruits. She could motivate recruits and help them to do more pull ups.”

Colburn said she lives to help others. She believes her experience in the DEP has helped her to realize her calling, and she has met every opportunity to help with enthusiasm and determination.   "I want to help others, to walk, to run, to lift, whatever the case may be," Colburn said. "It's all about being a leader in any way, shape, or form."

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