Story by Lance Cpl. Mary Carmona
Females make up only six percent of the Marine Corps, and an even lower percentage of females are in the more physically rigorous and demanding job fields the Corps offers.
One such Military Occupational Specialty is Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting.
Out of an ARFF class of 17 service members, Pfc. Mallary Bryant, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron ARFF Marine, was one of only two females.
“A lot of people do not think that girls can do this job,” Bryant said. “It is hard, especially being a female, because it is a really physically demanding job. You have to strive to do it.”
While Bryant didn’t initially enlist with the intent of becoming a firefighter, she rose to the challenge and quickly established herself as capable contender in the schoolhouse.
One of the first challenges she faced in the course is known as the Firefighters Physical Fitness Test. It is a three-minute event full of challenges that the student must complete while wearing a 50-pound vest. Those unable to pass the test are sent to a remedial PT course.
Bryant passed the test on her first attempt. In fact, she was the only female to pass all challenges on the first try.
“It was tiring but I enjoyed it,” Bryant said. “When things got hard I had to remember why I joined. I would think of my mom and grandma and that I’m doing this for them. I would remember the positive things.”
Bryant again set herself apart when she received the third-fastest time in a challenge known as the Hose Pull, in which ARFF students pull a 300-foot hose with the water pressure on off a truck, while in full gear.
The two male Marines who came in front of Bryant were only one and three seconds faster than her time.
Bryant successfully graduated the course in March and received orders to the fleet. She is now the sole female firefighter aboard Marine Corps Air Station New River.
“I was more nervous than anything,” Bryant said in response to finding out that she would be the only female in her unit. “I tried to prove myself by trying to learn the knowledge, trying to stay at the front with physical training, putting forward my best effort and showing them … I can carry my weight.”
Almost six months after nervously wondering how being the only female in her unit would work, Bryant said she now has a special connection with her unit.
“The bond you share is different because you spend over 24 hours together at work,” Bryant said. “You learn everything about your fellow Marines. I know they are always going to be there for me. I have all these big brothers that are there for me.”
Bryant said she has learned much from her experience in the Marine Corps and her ARFF training, and she hopes others can look at her as a role model.
“One of the reasons I joined the Marine Corps is because of a Marine from my town who fell in combat during a deployment,” she said. “I saw what a big influence his life had on my town and I wanted that.”
Bryant said she especially encourages females not to let opportunities pass by because they are told they cannot do it.
“Do not let someone tell you that you cannot do something,” Bryant said. “When someone says I can’t do something because I’m female, it makes me try harder. You have to dig deep and find that you can do it. You cannot be the weakest one.”