If all goes as expected, Marine Corps Cpl. Remedios Cruz should be one of the first women in the infantry.
Cruz, 24, graduated from the School of Infantry in September 2014. Then in July, she and five other women completed a study, in which male and female Marines volunteered to perform combat tasks. Currently a supply clerk, Cruz plans on applying for a lateral move into the infantry.
"Just being in that study … I definitely enjoyed being out in the field and getting to experience the camaraderie between my brothers- and my sisters-in-arms," she told Marine Corps Times on Thursday.
Originally from Fleischmanns, New York, Cruz has been overcoming obstacles since she joined the Marine Corps.
"One of the first things that my recruiter told me was, 'Once you sign on the dotted line, you're committed,'" Cruz said. "I've been loyal ever since."
The challenge of taking part in a study to see if women could serve in combat arms military occupational specialties appealed to Cruz, she said.
"I heard about it when I was stationed out in Iwakuni, Japan," she said. "I didn't know if I could do it. I said, 'Why not? Go for it.'"
Her experience taking part in the integration study has given her a new appreciation for what it takes to join the infantry, she said.
"You definitely do have to be physically fit — almost like an athlete," Cruz said. "You do have to have a good amount of lower body strength for the hikes."
The long hikes were the toughest part of the training for Cruz. She and the other Marines marched up to 20 kilometers while carrying between 80 and 85 pounds of gear. They trudged through soft sand at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms in 100-degree weather.
"There were times where I didn't think that I could make it to the very end, but I just stuck it out," she said. "There was no questioning that I would not quit. There was no questioning that I would finish it."
Seeing SOI to its completion has added meaning for Cruz because she knows it means she will be one of the Marine Corps' first female riflemen.
"We've already integrated 315 of our 337 military occupational specialties and I'll be among the first to finish that bridge," she said.