Veteran Marine Sgt. Shannon Ihrke was selected for one of five special covers for the May issue of Maxim magazine, which 'salutes the military.' Ihrke spent four years in the Marine Corps before pursuing a career in modeling. (Marley Kate/Maxim)
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Shannon Ihrke says the discipline she learned in the Marine Corps has helped her land modeling jobs. (Courtesy of Shannon Ihrke)
Veteran Marine Sgt. Shannon Ihrke is wearing a lot less than MARPAT these days. The 25-year-old can be found on the cover of this month’s military appreciation issue of Maxim magazine, sporting a star-spangled bikini and a salute.
Before she was a model, Ihrke was an administrative specialist who served in Beaufort, S.C., and Rock Island, Ill. She never deployed, but made sergeant within four years after she was meritoriously promoted to corporal.
Near the end of her four-year enlistment, Ihrke was named one of Maxim’s Hometown Hotties finalists. When she traveled to Las Vegas for a photo shoot, she said she realized she had a chance to model as a career.
“I loved being in the Marine Corps,” Ihrke said. “It’s literally the best decision I made in my life. But I knew if I didn’t get out and at least try this, I’d regret it.”
Now she works as a spokesmodel for a classic rock radio station in Chicago. She appears on their morning show and introduces bands like Journey and Foghat before they go on stage. Ihrke also works as a ring girl for mixed martial arts events — something she got into while earning her green belt in the Marine Corps’ martial arts program.
Q. What was it like to be a swimsuit model at the same time you were noncommissioned officer in the Marine Corps?
A. I wasn’t sure how the Marines I worked with were going to react. All the guys were like, “This is so weird, you’re like our sister and now we’re seeing pictures of you in a bikini.”
The senior Marines were the ones I was worried about — I wanted to make sure they were OK with it before anyone else. And the junior Marines, even now, they say they can’t believe “the sergeant who was yelling at me to get on line is now in Maxim.”
But it has all been really positive.
Q. How do you feel about lance corporals hanging your cover photo in the Marine barracks?
A. I feel all right about it because I think my story is a positive one with a good message you can take away. I’ve gotten messages from female poolees and Marines saying they think it’s really cool that I’ve been able to follow different dreams by being a Marine and a model. When I got in, I thought female Marines were like these big manly people. But when I got to boot camp, all my stereotypes were shattered because I had these drill instructors that I thought were the prettiest girls I’d ever seen and they were kicking my butt at all these runs.
Q. What are some of the traits being a Marine help develop in you that you have applied to your career today?
A. I think a lot of people have a lot more respect for me right off the bat when they find out I’m a Marine. They actually treat me a little differently than they would anyone else. I’m a lot more disciplined and I get a lot of jobs because when someone tells me to show up at 2 p.m., I get there at 1:45. I’m always ready, I’m always prepared, and I get a lot more jobs that way because people aren’t used to someone being so disciplined and respectful. There are so many things being in the Marine Corps taught me that open so many doors once you’re out.
Q. Do you train like a Marine to stay in shape?
A. I PT all the time. When I was in Rock Island, my first sergeant made us do two-a-days, and he still messages me once in awhile to make sure I’m doing my workouts.
I do things a little bit differently now just because in the Marine Corps it’s about getting stronger. I had a little bit of a bigger build then — I was more muscular because I had to be to do the Physical and Combat Fitness Tests. Now I do a lot more with lighter weights and higher repetitions just to stay toned and fit.
Q. Now that you’re known as the “Marine model,” what kind of message do you hope it sends?
A. It was never my intention to represent the Marine Corps — I never saw that coming, that people would look at me and say, “This is what a female Marine is like.” I want people to know that you can be any kind of female Marine you want to be. You can be tough as nails or you can be a female admin helping the Marines with their pay. It helps get the message out that there are so many different ways you can serve as a Marine.