MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
Editor’s note: The Marine Corps is recognizing women’s contributions to the military during the month of March in observance of Women’s History Month. As outlined in Marine Administrative Message 071/13, the Marine Corps theme for this year is Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
When she joined the Marine Corps, Shannon R. Bandy, wanted to become a military police officer. Although her plans did not pan out, little did she know she would still be able to save lives and put what she learned in science classes to good use.
Now, one year later, the Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron lance corporal is an aircraft rescue and firefighting specialist here at Cherry Point.
“I like being a firefighter because it’s what most of us look up to,” she said. “What young child doesn’t want to be in the midst of what’s happening when they see a firetruck?”
Bandy loves her job and the responsibility that comes with it. She is also proud to be part of a job field that was initially closed to women.
“One day a colonel in the Air Force looked at me and said, ‘You’re rare because you’re a female Marine, but you are even more of a rare breed because you’re a female firefighter.’”
Since 1918, women like Bandy have played integral roles in the Marine Corps. They serve in 93 percent of all occupational fields and 62 percent of all billets. With the recent repeal of combat exclusion rules, women may soon integrate into nearly every Marine occupational specialty.
There is more to being a firefighter than just extinguishing a fire, said the Johnston City, Ill., native. Bandy works with chemicals and hazardous materials on a daily basis and said she responds to all phases of incidents such as fuel spills, fires and aircraft experiencing technical issues.
She said science plays a major role in how she does her job; aircraft rescue and firefighting specialists must know critical information about chemical bonds and which chemicals can safely put out a fire. She stressed the importance of knowing how some could even create potential hazards.
“When in an emergency, I have to think quickly but also use good judgment,” she said. “At any given time, I could hold a Marine’s life in my hands.”
Tools of the trade assist Bandy and her fellow Marines, making their lives easier. They are responsible for operating their P-19 crash fire rescue vehicles and the equipment they employ.
“I rely on my favorite tool, the K-12 fire-rescue saw,” she said. “It can cut through anything like butter.
“From boot camp on, we are taught to take care of the Marines beside you,” she said. “If I needed to, in an instant I would give up my life to save one of my brothers or sisters to my left and right.”