Balancing Student Life and the Marines

Patricia Battle

Gillian Feasel Interview from Patricia Battle on Vimeo.

Kent State student Gillian Feasel, a sophomore geography major, conquers her challenges with balancing school and training to be in the Marine Corps.

Her interest with joining the military started with her watching her father as a Marine soldier.

“I grew up as a military kid,” Feasel said. “My dad traveled a lot, as I grew up I finally realized what he was doing, risking his life and helping people. Growing up even more I realized that this was something that I wanted to do. I’ve met so many people like him and I see them as a role model, and I want to be exactly like them.”

Enrolling in the Platoon Leaders Class, which consists of leadership training that serves as an opportunity to join the Marine Corps, caused her parents to have some concerns about her future in the field.

“My parents have a lot more fears than I do about entering, especially the Marine Corps,” she said. “They were apprehensive at first because my dad knows personally how dangerous it is, how much it’s going to take, the mental stability, the physical stability.”

Regardless of their concerns, she hopes that the outcome of her choice will be worth it in the end.

“They know me, and they know that I’m not gonna back down from a challenge, they know that I’m gonna preserver from this, and hopefully it makes me into a better person, someone that they can be proud of,” she said.

Balancing being a full-time student and training as a soldier made her recognize that prioritizing is key.

“Though my training is early in the morning, it helps because right after I’m done training, taking a shower and eating, I’m doing homework, I’m going to school, I’m going to class. It’s a balance between both,” she said. “It’s a lot of organization which I realize it’s very important going through this, personally I think school comes first because that’s why I’m here, training comes second. My family knows that I’ve put them off third.”

Training for the Marine Corps consists of pull-ups, crunches and a three mile run.

“Training is pretty tough. It’s not a small task that individuals have to overcome or willing to step to the plate,” said Captain Maurice W. Kitchens Jr., a U.S. Marine Corps Selections Officer.

“I’ll come out of gym dying of muscle aches and I’ll just be like I did something, I pushed myself to the limit today, and that’s something I need to do,” Feasel said.

An obstacle of training for Feasel are pull-ups, which she enjoys as a challenge.

“Pull-ups are hard, especially with being a female, it’s difficult having to be around other males that are always gonna be bigger than you, faster than you,” she said, “It’s always a challenge, it’s always fun to overcome, I’m trying to get better at pull-ups, trying to get better at running, trying to get better at everything. Just so I can prove that I’m right there with them, and I am trying to be almost better than them in a way.”

With around seven percent of women making up the Marine Corps total, she recognizes that being a female in training is uncommon.

“Your definitely outnumbered, but it’s great to see the guys treating you the same, and not underestimating you,” she said.

Nicole Williamson, a student who is also enrolled in the Platoon Leaders Class for the Marine Corps explains the large ratio of men and women in the class.

“We just had a Marine recruiting function where we all went to the park and played a pick-up game, and exchanged information and contact information just so that we can meet each other and create a group,” Williamson said. “There was probably about 20 people, and there’s only 4 girls. So the ratio from men to women is pretty big.”

Stereotypes about women in the military doesn’t phase Feasel during the process of training.

“People still think that women can’t do this because there’s debate on why women shouldn’t be in infantry because we’re not strong enough to lift up a 300 lbs. whatever guy,” Feasel said. “I agree with that, but there are some women that can.”

In order to stay in contact and uplifted during training, her and other recruits in the class developed a large group chat in an app called GroupMe as a source of support.

“So in that huge GroupMe that has like 50 something people in it, they’re always sending podcasts, they’re sending pictures and quotes to help you keep motivated, to keep going to be a better person,” Feasel said. ”They send videos from Facebook, they send articles online. They’re going through the same process, and we’re all trying to be a family here. It’s just like a brotherhood.”

In the future, Feasel doesn’t plan on stopping her progress in the Marine Corps.

“I plan on making this my life honestly, and my parents don’t know yet, but once I go through the process and get to where I need be, I wanna keep going, and I want to keep going as a higher ranked officer,” Feasel said. “I’ll be happy with helping whoever I need to help, even if that means my life is on the line.”

Patricia Battle is the military and veterans and adult services reporter. Contact her at [email protected].