MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
The majority of young, enlisted Marines are either teenagers or in their early 20s and have little life experience, but one North Carolina native left a career in education in search of a bigger challenge. She found it in the Marine Corps.
Twenty-five-year-old Cpl. Maureen J. Findley is not like the majority of her peers. Before the Corps, she worked as a teacher at Eastern Gilford High School in Greensborough, N.C. with a bachelor’s degree in history and economics and a master’s degree in secondary education.
It would seem her life was set. Why then the sudden change? Maureen said earning two degrees and a career as a teacher was not enough of a challenge for her.
“I wanted more of a challenge. I wanted something that was going to challenge me mentally, physically and professionally,” said the Greensboro, N.C., native. “I started talking to the recruiter who was recruiting my students and just started looking more into it. I had always thought about joining the military. I just figured it was the time to do it. The recruiter was just the one who helped me figure out what branch I was going to join.”
Findley, a maintenance management specialist with Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, has served in the Corps for nearly two years, but has accomplished much in that short time. She has earned two meritorious promotions, received the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for going above and beyond in her job field by implementing new maintenance management programs and narrating ceremonies for the battalion. Recently she submitted a request to compete for an opportunity to become a Marine officer through the Enlisted Commissioning Program.
Findley said she originally wanted to join as an officer from the beginning, but found she would have to wait seven months to join. She took the enlisted route instead to avoid the wait – she had more than $50,000 in student loans and time was not a luxury she could afford.
The ECP gives enlisted Marines with bachelor’s degrees the opportunity to become Marine Corps officers. However, because slots are limited, only the best Marines are selected. Findley expressed she is extremely confident she will be selected.
“I researched the program before I enlisted,” said Findley. “It was the plan all along. You have to be on top of your game to be selected. It’s tough competition, but I’m confident I’ll be selected because of my advanced degrees, what I’ve accomplished in my 18 months in the Corps, and because I’ve proven myself by leading Marines on the enlisted side.”
Findley is taking all steps possible to prepare for the vigorous training she will experience at Officer Candidates School if selected. She currently runs three days a week wearing boots, camouflage utilities and a protective vest. Once to twice a week she also practices working through obstacle courses and rope climbing, as well as lifting weights at least four days a week.
“It’s all about knowing your weaknesses and improving them,” said Findley. “My focus is to be as prepared as possible. It’s still going to be a challenge either way, but (I want) to be as ready as I can be.”
Findley’s master sergeant said he believes she is one of the most stellar Marines he has ever seen. Master Sgt. Michael Narace, Headquarters Battalion maintenance management chief with 2nd Marine Division, enlisted in the Marines at 26 years old and believes Findley will be an excellent leader with invaluable experience as a prior enlisted Marine.
Enlisted Marines who later in their career become commissioned officers are nicknamed Mustangs.
“You see some second lieutenants right from college, and all they know is college. Most of them never held a (long-term) job, and then they go from high school to college to OCS. Then there is not a whole lot of experience in there besides school. Whereas a mustang – they’ve been through boot camp, they’ve been through the ranks,” said Narace. “It’s just a different perspective.”