Jacqueline Marshall, a 19-year-old honors graduate of Oxon Hill High School, experienced soldier and member of the West Point class of '85, is unabashedly "hung-ho about the Army."
"I think my blook is green," she said. "There's so much to do, so many things you can go into . . . I think everybody should go into the Army."
Marshall, who lives in an Oxon Hill condominium with her mother and two younger sisters, joined the Army when she was 17.
This week, when she enters Beast ybarracks -- the nickname for West Point's first summer training -- she will join the fifth coed class of cadets since the U.S. Military Academy opened its doors to women in 1976.
At a time when women's efforts to achieve equality in the military are being challenged, Marshall says, "I can do whatever anybody else can."
Nevertheless, she often ran into sexual discrimination during her two years in the Army, she said.
"Some men can't take it if you do something better than them, especially at sports. They go crazy.But if you don't do well, they'll wasy, 'That's okay.' It's like they're saying, 'We don't expect you to do as well as us anyway.' . . . Once I hit a ball to right field," she said, her voice rising in mock alarm, "and they said, 'She hit it! I don't believe it. She hit the ball.'"
Although Marshall said she never experienced overt racism in the Army, she recalled that when she asked a white soldier for a drink of water on Martin Luther King's birthday (Jan. 15) this year, he responded, "Let Martin Luther King get you some water," and he and his buddy laughed.
Despite, or perhaps because of, - such obstacles, Marshall is determined to proved a point. "Just because I'm a female doesn't mean I can't . . . be a soldier . . . I never gave them (men in the Army) a chance to say, 'See there, I told you women don't belong in the Army.' I can do whatever a man can. Any woman can."
Her mother Tina W. Marshall, a divorcee, said the value she has tried to instil in her three daughters is independence. "There's a whole lot out there in the world," she says. "I love to travel. ythat's what I tell my kids to do. Go out and see other parts of the world, see all the people. Be independent. Get out there and do it. You can do it." Tonya, 16, and Joanne, 12, like their older sister, have taken the lesson to heart.
All three daughters have linked their futures to the military. Tonya, a star basketball player in Prince George's County, plans to join the Air Force unless she is offered an athletic scholarship for college. Joanne, 12, is thinking seriously about a Navy career.
The attractions for the two younger girls are the same ones that drew Marshall to the Army: education, salary, a skilled trade, a change for travel and adventure.
"Besides," said Jacki Marshall, "I'd rather give orders than receive them."
She liked the idea of West Point because "It is one of the best ways to get your commission. . . At West Point they pay for everything. . . in return for five years of duty. My ETS (estimated time of separation from the service) after West Point is 1990."
Marshall read about West Point in an Army magazine while she was stationed at the McAfee Medical Clinic on the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. She inquired, applied and was accepted at the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School in Fort Monmouth, N.J. According to an official in the adminsions office, the shcool accepts only 15 to 20 percent of it applicants. Of the 340 to 350 cadet candidates who entered the 10-month program last August, 220 completed it. Marshall was one of six black women in the graduating class.
Her interest in a military career was sparked when recruiters contacted her during her senior year in high school after she had scored high on military aptitude tests.
Her mother recalls, "The way she aproached me was to show me all the pros and then the cons. 'I can do this (join the Army) and get my education -- free. I can do this and get paid . . . and travel.'"
Marshall went through basic training in Alabama and completed advanced training as an environmental helath specialist in Texas, where she mopped a lot of floors, she said. Then the tall, lean young woman with the wide smile was sent tot he McAfee Army Medical Clinic.
Of her two years as an enlisted soldier, she says confidently, "It'll give me a little bit of an edge over those coming right out of high school because I already know the military customs and courtesies, like shining shoes, making my bed and wearing a uniform."
As a child, Marshall wanted to become president of the United States, she said, but her currect ambition is to become an engineer. Her mother remembers, "She was a good child to raise. She used to stay indoors a lot and watch television when she was young. She used to read and had good study habits, though, and was a Girl Scout for nearly six years."
In 15 years, Marshall said, "I'll be a lieutenant colonel -- no, I'll say a major, or a wife and mother. But if I stay in I'll become a general, of course."