Special Report: The Determined 8%, Northern Michigan Women take on Marine Bootcamp

There’s only one road to get on and off Parris Island, home to the Marine Corps. Recruit Depot.

The road serves as a physical divider between the main land and base, and a bridge between those who enter as civilians and leave as marines.

No matter where marine recruits come from, every journey starts at the island’s infamous Yellow Footprints, where recruits exit the bus and line up for their first taste of instruction at boot camp.

What comes next is 13 weeks of the most difficult challenge of their life.

Recruits learn basic warrior training, marksmanship, history and character. Obstacles and lessons are designed to push recruits to their mental and physical limits.

It all culminates in The Crucible, a 54 hour obstacle course marathon. Upon completion, recruits are then awarded the title of United States Marine.

The Marines are sometimes known as the country’s most elite fighting force. And the best of the best doesn’t discriminate, male or female, the title is yours if you earn it.

Parris Island is the country’s only place where women can attend boot camp. While they have been coming for years, still, just 8% of the Marine Corps is female. That’s the lowest percentage of any armed force.

Two Northern Michigan women are part of that elite population.

Madison St. Onge of Cadillac started at boot camp a few months ago.

“I wanted to get out and do something big and bold, I wanted to put myself out there because there’s a lot that goes with the Marine Corps,” said St. Onge.

St. Onge wanted to make something of her life and break out of the routines, and town, that she said held her back.

“I went to school and I went home every day, that’s what I did, and I got a job at Speedway, I was working every morning,” said St. Onge. “I’ve experienced people who put me down and tell me I’m not going anywhere, and it’s just a very small town, very small city. I’m going to push through it and prove them wrong.”

Traverse City native Keirra Trudeau also entered boot camp around the same time as Madison.

For Trudeau, choosing to be a marine recruit runs in her blood.

“My dad and my brother are marines, but no other female in my family is a marine, so following their legacy and creating my own I thought would be a good choice,” said Trudeau. “I know that other generations of females in my family will follow my lead and hopefully embark on the same trail that I did.”

Trudeau and St. Onge live just 56 miles apart and had never met. But now they share the bond of becoming two of the few females to join the marines.

“It pushes me more, it makes me want to show other women out there that you can be a United States marine,” said St. Onge.

“I think it’s a good thing for females to join to prove not so much because we don’t have anything to prove. We can do it and we don’t need anyone to tell us we can or cannot,” said Trudeau.

These Northern Michigan women are paving the way for themselves and the service women who will follow.

St. Onge will be working in administrative services of the Marine Corps.

Trudeau wants to stay in the service for 20 or more years and make a career out of the Marines.