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Ambition fuels Jamaican’s journey to success

‘Girly girl’ now member of US Marine Corps

BY ANIKA RICHARDS Sunday Observer staff reporter richardsai@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, December 22, 2013    

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DESCRIBING herself as a 'girly girl', 25-year-old Christina Wauchope, a Jamaican living in the United States of America, said that her biggest challenge ever was deciding to join the US Marine Corps.

She told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview that most people doubted her ability to complete the actual training to become a Marine, and as such, she was even more motivated.

"Most people didn't think I could do it and that motivated me even more to prove them wrong," Wauchope recounted.

In fact, Wauchope had never seen herself as a member of the Marine Corps, because, like most Jamaicans, she witnessed the harsh realities that members of the Jamaica Defence Force and Jamaica Constabulary Force have to endure.

"I never envisioned myself as a Marine, especially growing up in Jamaica and seeing what the police and soldiers have been through," she said. "I never thought I would ever do it."

However, after moving to the USA in 2010 with her family and realising that, even with her degree in International Relations and Spanish from the University of the West Indies, finding gainful employment in Miami was not easy. So, when her brother, who is also a member of the Marine Corps, started sharing stories that he heard while talking to a Marine Corps recruiter, she decided to explore it.

"I joined the US Marine Corps mainly for the variety of opportunities and numerous benefits it has to offer," Wauchope said, retrospectively. "They pay for you to go back to school and, I want to complete my Masters in International Relations.

"Also, the financial security was there and the opportunity for travel and adventure," Wauchope said. "I also took it on as a challenge to myself, because I knew it was going to be tough, but I told myself that if I can do it, anyone can."

So, at the beginning of 2013, she started her journey as a contract Private First Class, which, she said, is the second rank of the Marine Corps, through basic training from boot camp to Marine Combat Training (MCT). She is now a Lance Corporal, after being meritoriously promoted after having been the honour graduate from her Military Occupational Specialty school, which she attended after completing basic training.

"Now I'm working hard to get meritoriously promoted again to the next rank, which is Corporal," Wauchope said.

But getting to this point was not easy. Wauchope told the Sunday Observer that there were times that she doubted herself.

"It was the toughest time of my life," Wauchope reflected. "There were many days when I thought I wouldn't have made it.

"What kept me going were the letters I received from my family and friends," said Wauchope. "I wanted to make them proud, so I kept pushing. I never gave up."

Having never broken a bone in her life, it was while training for the Marine Corps that she lived the mantra: "pain is weakness leaving the body", which is one of the sayings in the Marine Corps.

"The worst experience I had with training was during MCT when I went on a 15k hike with our LB pack, which is a backpack as big as I am, that weighed like 70 pounds, our rifle and flak jacket," related Wauchope, who stands at five feet. "I was hurting during that hike, but I thought it was just because I had that entire load on me.

"After the hike, when I took my boots off I had three big blisters on my foot and my feet were killing me," she said. "It hurt for like a week and it was swollen.

"After checking it out at a medical, it turned out I had a broken metatarsal (any of the bones in the foot) on my left foot," Wauchope told the Sunday Observer. "The bone was literally broken in two and I was walking around on it for over a week."

She said that she was unable to do anything for two months after that, but basic training and collecting her Eagle, Globe and Anchor, which is the Marine emblem, was worth it.

"I did so much in those few months that has really taught me a lot. I have done things I never thought I would ever do in my lifetime," Wauchope said, while explaining that basic training included things such as firing the M16 rifle as well as the M240 machine guns, throwing grenades, going into a gas chamber, rappelling, martial arts, hikes, and much more.

"It has given me the confidence to overcome most of my fears," Wauchope declared.

Wauchope is now stationed in Quantico, Virginia, where she will be for the next three years. Her duties are chiefly administrative, since it is a training and education command centre and hardly has any field activities.

Wauchope said that though she is not doing any field activities, her station allows her to meet many officers of the Marine Corps who have given her great advice.

"The role of a Marine is basically to serve and protect the country and its citizens from in the air, on land and sea," Wauchope explained. "We are the amphibious branch of the US Armed Forces. The Navy sticks to the sea, the Air Force in the air and the Army stays on land, but we Marines go everywhere, we do everything."

"Marines are always the first to fight and we are all about mission accomplishment," said Wauchope. "Give us a job to do and we guarantee you it will be done, no matter what it takes."

The best lesson she has learnt since deciding to become a Marine: Never give up and be confident in everything that you do.

"No matter how bad you are hurting or how bad a situation is, never tell yourself that you can't do it, never give up, and you will succeed," said Wauchope. "The Marine Corps has also instilled its core values of 'honour, courage and commitment' in me."

Though she is happy with her decision to become a Marine and is appreciative of the opportunities she has had since, Wauchope admits that she misses Jamaica and that it will always be home.

"I had three jobs in Miami, before joining the military at age 24, which made me one of the older, more mature ones," said Wauchope. "I was the second oldest person in my platoon. In fact, I had my 25th birthday in boot camp — a day I will never forget because it was qualification day on the rifle range and I got 'expert shooter', so that was a good birthday gift.

"I didn't want to move to the USA at first, but I'm glad I did because of the opportunities I've had since, but Jamaica will always be my home," said Wauchope. "I miss all my friends and family that's there and I can't wait to go visit them. I miss the beaches, the parties, definitely the food, the mountains. I miss everything about Jamaica."

Looking back, Wauchope said, "I still don't know where I got the strength from to do some of the things I did, but it just goes to show you that with a positive mindset and prayer, you can do anything you set your mind to."

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