Maria Daume, one of the first female Marines to enlist into the Corps on an infantry contract, made history March 23 when she graduated from the School of Infantry East at Camp Geiger, North Carolina. Daume is the first female Marine to join the infantry through its traditional training pipeline; she’ll join the Fleet Marine Force as a mortarman, one of the combat arms fields opened to women last year. But her remarkable story began 18 years ago and 6,000 miles away, in Russia.
Daume and her twin brother, Nikolai, were born in a prison in Siberia, where their mother was incarcerated. When the twins were 2 years old, their mother died, and they lived in an orphanage in Moscow until they were adopted by an American family living on New York’s Long Island.
Daume distinguished herself at the School of Infantry, where her training included scaling 56-inch walls in full gear, lifting 80-pound weapons systems overhead, and moving a 200-pound “simulated casualty” dummy to safety, according to VOA News. Not to mention a 12-mile hike while carrying her 60mm mortar system and four rounds.
“She was right at the top of the pack,” Sgt. Matthew Schneider, a mortar instructor at the School of Infantry, told VOA in an interview.
A lifelong athlete, mixed martial artist, and competitive spirit, Daume said her decision to enlist in the infantry came down to one thing: She wanted to personally clobber America’s enemies.
“I want to fight ISIS,” Daume told Task & Purpose in an interview in January. “Even though everybody in the military fights, I want to be a grunt. I think everything about it is for me, and I want to prove that females can do it.”
Now, she’ll have her chance.
Daume’s graduation makes her the fourth female infantry Marine. Three female Marines currently serve with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment at Camp Lejeune, and Daume will head to Camp Pendleton, where she’s been assigned to 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.
The battalion’s nickname is “the magnificent bastards.”