Semper Fi, Sister

Lindsey Exley will be shipping out to begin her training at Parris Island Boot Camp for the Marines in South Carolina this spring

photo by Kaycee Orwig

Madelynn Stibbard, Head Interviewer

Have you always known that this is what you want to do? Or did you consider other careers first?
I thought about joining the Marines in the past, but it was never really something that I saw myself doing. There was always that fear that I wouldn’t be able to do it, and when I brought it up to my parents, I was always shot down, so I thought that it wasn’t the career for me. I really loved working with animals so I looked into careers in that field, but I realized that it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life.

What drew you to the marines specifically? Did you consider any other branches?
Well, I went to physical training with Sarah Riddle, another girl here who is joining the Marines at North Allegheny, and the whole time I was thinking to myself, “They’re all going to make fun of me because I am a girl, and I’m not going to be able to keep up and they are just going to be jerks about it.” But when I got there, we did this really intense workout and I was able to keep up as hard as it was, and not once did anybody tell me that I couldn’t do it or point out that I wasn’t doing as well as they were. It was never about gender or how small I was.  It was about motivation and dedication, which I thought was really cool. As for why I chose the Marines specifically, I think that there is a lot of pettiness between the branches about who is better and who is more important and whatever, but the Marines are all-encompassing, which is an aspect that I really liked.

Why pick this path as opposed to the standard college degree?
I was never really a “sit in the classroom” kind of person and all I would think about is what else I could be doing with my time. In my opinion, college is a path for a person who has their mind set on what they want to do or have an overall end goal and use college as a means to achieve it. I don’t think somebody should go to college just to go to college. It’s a waste of your money in that case, and there are so many other things that you could be doing with your time in the world. I don’t think going to college needs to be the only logical path for someone to follow after high school. The military can give you many amazing experiences and you can make a difference in the world all at the same time. You don’t need a college degree to achieve that.

What does one have to do to join the Marines? Do you have to join the active military service?
Basically, you have to start out by talking with a recruiter, and they will tell you what the Marines can do for you and they ask what you would want out of it. You then undergo an evaluation to make sure you are eligible, and then after that you have to fill out a bunch of paperwork. You then go to MEPS, which stands for Military Entrance Processing Station, and that’s where you get all of your physicals and mental evaluations done. And if you pass all of that, you go to boot camp. You don’t have to join active — you can go into reserves, where you work one weekend of each month and then two weeks in the summer doing the job of your choice, and all of this at the base closest to you. I considered reserves for a while, but I decided to go active.

What would you say is the most important trait to have in order to be successful?
Being motivated. All of the training and the physical aspects of joining the military can be improved upon, and you do that through motivation. There will be days where it stinks and you want to stop and give up, but it’s on those days when you keep going that you become a better person. You have to have motivation in order to succeed in this environment.

What are you most excited about? Least?
I am most excited about boot camp. That probably sounds crazy to a lot of people, but I am the person who values the journey more than the destination. I can’t wait to challenge myself and to become a better person. One of the biggest reasons that I wanted to join is because the people who come out of boot camp are changed for the better. Boot camp breaks you down to builds you back up into a person that you never thought you could be. Though I’m not disappointed in who I am, I know that I can be better and I strive to be the best version of myself. I think I’m least excited about leaving everything behind. When I first joined, I didn’t think that I had that much to leave behind, but as I get closer and closer to my ship date I start to see the value in things in ways that I never saw before. There are people I’m going to miss, activities I’m going to miss doing, and some of the freedoms that I have to give up. One thing that comes to mind is relationships because it’s almost impossible to maintain a normal relationship with people outside of it all. But it’s a sacrifice that I have to make, and one of the sayings in the Marines is “every Marine makes a sacrifice,” so I am just thankful that mine isn’t greater.

What is the final goal that you are striving for? 

Right now, I want to be either a small arms repair technician or an MP, which is military police, or a combat engineer. Those are the three jobs that I am looking at for now. But my end goal is to become a Drill Instructor. In order to become one, however, I must achieve the rank of sergeant.

How do your parents feel about this?
My parents were at first very unsupportive and did everything in their power to dissuade me from joining. But as it went, they started to realize that it’s something to be proud of, not to be afraid of. So now they are really proud of me and they are really excited for me. They do whatever they can to help me succeed, and it means a lot to me to have their support during this process.

Are you worried about anything? Is there any concept that scares you?
Failure. I’ve come so far and I’ve done so much to get where I am, and if I were to fail I would feel that I am not only disappointing myself but everyone who has helped me along the way like my recruiter and my family. I would never quit, but I also fear getting hurt and not being able to continue. I’m not scared of being deployed really. One of the other reasons I wanted to join the Marines (I don’t know if it’s a good reason, really) is that I really want to travel. You get moved around and you see different places and work with different people. I might be seeing some of the darkest places in the world, but I think it’s time that I see what the world is really like. I have been so sheltered that I think that it would be good for me to see the world from a different perspective.