The U.S. Marine Corps has a long and rich history, and Switzerland County’s Kassandra Woodward is now a part of that legacy.
The Marine, who is the daughter of Scott and Christina Woodward of Fairview, is a 2013 graduate of Switzerland County High School. She is also one of only 13 female Marines in the history of the corps to successfully complete and graduate from the Marine’s Infantry Training Battalion.
She is the first female ever from the State of Indiana to complete the course.
On New Year’s Eve, she was honored for her accomplishment and her service by State Representative Randy Frye, who presented her with an American Flag that has flown over the Indiana State House, and also a certificate. The flag was flown over the State Capitol on December 6th.
Television crews from channels 9 and 12 in Cincinnati were also on hand for the ceremony.
Until recently female Marines were excluded from participating in infantry training, but, as part of a Marine Corps research project in conjunction with the Department of Defense, females were allowed to volunteer to attempt the training.
Kassi Woodward knew immediately that she wanted to volunteer.
Entering the Marine Corps on July 8th of this year, Kassi Woodward headed for boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina. From there, she had a short leave before reporting to Infantry Training. She was assigned to Echo Company, Infantry Training Battalion, at Camp Geiger, North Carolina. Camp Geiger serves as the home to infantry training in the eastern portion of the U.S.
“There are 12 other females who have ever completed it,” Kassi Woodward said. “Delta Company was the first, and they had three. Then we had the 10.”
The two-months of training involved many physical and psychological aspects, and female soldiers had to meet the very same standards as male soldiers in order to complete and graduate from the training.
“We had hikes. Set up patrol bases, ambushes, all kinds of things that we actually perform in where we are now,” Kassi Woodward said.
The training also included grueling physical demands, including completing a 20-kilometer hike carrying a 90-pound backpack with a combat load.
The decision to join the military is one that many young people consider, and for Kassi Woodward, as she approached the end of high school, the decision was an easy one.
“Both my parents were in the military,” she said. “My mom was in the Navy and my dad was in the Marines. I grew up listening to their stories, and it’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid.”
At the presentation, State Representative Randy Frye told everyone that Kassandra Woodward was a “Hoosier Hero”.
“As chairman of the Veterans Affairs Public Safety Committee in the House of Representatives, it’s even more important for me to be here today and to meet Kassandra and to honor her is one of the highlights of the year for me.
“We’re here today to honor a true ‘Hometown Hero’,” Randy Frye continued. “To accomplish what Kassandra has is truly remarkable. It’s an honor for me to be here today to recognize her.”
Why did she go through it?
“I wanted to show that females can do it,” Kassi Woodward said. “I can do it. We can do it. That’s why I went through it. We did the same things as the males. We didn’t get judged differently. We didn’t get treated differently. That’s what I loved about it, they didn’t treat us differently at all, whatsoever.”
Kassi Woodward said that pride is the centerpiece of the bond that she now shares with a dozen other women.
“Only 13 of us as women have done this, and there’s so much pride,” she said. “I’ve been yelled at. Once we first got there, these guys kept saying, ‘you’re going infantry?’ and I said, ‘yes’; and they said, ‘you’re not gonna make it’. That’s so much motivation right there. That’s just pride. Being able to prove all those people wrong. That makes my day.”
And was there a point when she thought she might not make it?
“That 20-K scared me,” Kassi Woodward said of the 20-kilometer hike. “I didn’t know if I could do it. My ankles were giving out. I didn’t like it. The guys walk really fast, so it was pretty much running for all of us females. We had our flags and packs, and we just kept going.”
Now, after her leave, Kassi Woodward heads to Camp Leonard Wood in Missouri to finish her MOI training and a motor transport specialist. Currently she is not allowed to be a part of an infantry battalion even though she has successfully completed the training, but she hopes that restriction will be lifted so that she can serve along side of her male infantry counterparts.
“Infantry, that’s all I want to do,” she smiled.