Trailblazing through glass ceilings: U.S. Marine Emily Zamudio Story by Sgt. Tessa Watts
In a matter of months, one particular female Marine has made history not once, but twice, inspiring young girls and women throughout the United States that they can do whatever they set their mind to.
U.S. Marine Pfc. Emily Zamudio, an infantry Marine currently assigned with Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry (SOI) West, and scheduled to report to 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, made history when she graduated recruit training from the very first female platoon to train at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, May 2021. This was monumental because female recruits have only ever trained and became United States Marines exclusively at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.
She took it a step further by becoming the only female from that platoon to successfully earn the military occupational specialty (MOS) of infantry.
“I had a lot of doubt in myself, thinking I wasn’t going to make it through recruit training” Zamudio said. “After I graduated, I realized I could definitely push myself harder. That’s also why I’m glad I joined the infantry because now I really know how far I can push myself.”
Females have been allowed to join the infantry since 2016, but they’ve only been able to earn the MOS at SOI East at Marine Corps Base (MCB) Camp Lejeune, not at SOI West at MCB Camp Pendleton. Zamudio is the first entry-level female to accomplish the Infantry Marine Course on the west coast, trailblazing the path for females behind her to do the same.
“Knowing that the infantry is a male-dominant MOS, I wanted to prove that I can do a man’s job,” Zamudio exclaimed. “Hopefully this opens the door for more females.”
Despite females having the option to join the infantry, it’s still not completely welcomed by society.
“I know a lot of people doubt that females should be in the infantry, so I wanted to prove that I could do it,” Zamudio said with determination in her voice.
She did just that; she proved that she was capable of becoming an infantry Marine. Infantry and other combat-related MOS’ require the same level of performance from both males and females. As long as the job gets done and Marines are pulling their own weight, gender is irrelevant.
Zamudio will be reporting to her next designated place of duty and begin building rapport with the Marines that she will be side by side with every day, training and preparing to protect our nation’s freedom against all enemies, foreign and domestic, in any clime and place.
“I’m really nervous for what’s after this, but the feelings I’m having now are the same feelings I had before recruit training and before SOI,” Zamudio said excitedly with a grin. “I got through it. I finished everything I had to do. Knowing that I did accomplish it makes me excited for what’s next.”
Helping pave the way for females wasn’t the only motivation for Zamudio. She wanted to be a shining example for her siblings to understand the potential and strength their family has.
“Knowing that my family can look up to me is my motivation and inspiration to keep going,” Zamudio said.
Growing up, her mother worked tirelessly to provide for her and siblings; often working multiple jobs at once. Ever since she was a child, Zamudio looked up to her mother for her perseverance and tenacity, and wanted to succeed in a career that would make her proud.
“My mom supported me as much as she could and she was always there,” Zamudio said. “This is my way of giving back to her. I really wanted to become my own person and show her I could become successful.”
Zamudio achieved a great deal for gender equality and for her family, but she achieved even more for herself. Through her journey, she’s learned the discipline and dedication it takes to be a Marine. The values and skills instilled in her through her training will always be a part of her, even after her time as an active duty Marine ends.
“I knew it was going to be difficult,” Zamudio claimed. “I really felt the saying that it’s earned and never given. It was a culture shock, but it’s changed me for the better.”
The future of the United States Marine Corps is in the hands of young Marines like Zamudio; Marines that exceed expectations, perform with grit and zeal, and never give up on themselves or the Marines to their left and right. She has proven herself and made clear that she belongs in the Marine Corps as an infantry Marine.
“People are not always going to accept you,” Zamudio concluded. “They’re going to doubt you, but you have to find the inner motivation to push through and not give up. I know a lot of people don’t agree with me being here, and that’s how it’s going to be throughout my whole Marine Corps career. But if you do the job right, they really can’t bring you down.”