Marines Blog

The Official Blog of the United States Marine Corps

Subscribe by RSS

Marine Breaks Stereotypes throughout Career

In nearly 20 years in the Corps, Gunnery Sgt. Lisa Kulczewski has continually overcome stereotypes of female Marines. Juggling training, deployments and the other rigorous expectations of the Marine Corps with dinner, daycare, soccer practice and housework as a single mom hasn’t been easy for Kulczewski, but she has relished the challenges the Corps has presented her. (Multimedia production by Sgt. Cassandra Flowers and Cpl. Chelsea Flowers Anderson)

Since Gunnery Sgt. Lisa Kulczewski enlisted nearly 20 years ago, the expectations of female Marines in the Corps has changed significantly. The Marine Corps authorized female Marines to attend Marine Combat Training, lengthened their 1.5-mile run in the Physical Fitness Test to three miles, permitted women to deploy on Navy ships and more recently, opened hundreds of combat-related jobs for female Marines.

130305-M-AR635-268

Gunnery Sgt. Lisa Kulczewski acts as a victim while Sgt. Richard A. Rodriguez, a MCIWS instructor, demonstrates the proper technique for treating head, neck and spinal injuries in the water during Marine Corps Swim Instructor Course at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., March 5, 2013. She has been part of the program since 1999 and continues to help along side her regular administrative work. The course creates instructors who can train Marines to react and survive life-threatening situations in the water. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel Wetzel)

Adapting to these changing requirements was exactly what Kulczewski was looking for when she enlisted in the Corps and she has relished in the challenges they have presented throughout her career.

Following boot camp, she attended schooling to become a motor transport operator and got orders to Truck Company, 1st Marine Division at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., where a large portion of the Marine Corps’ infantrymen are stationed.

“It was one of the toughest places you could go in the Marine Corps,” said Kulczewski, from Gilroy, Calif. “I went into a man’s world where they didn’t know females or the females they did know didn’t have the get-up and go they needed to break those stereotypes. I wanted to prove that I could do anything they could do.”

Determined to break existing misconceptions about female Marines, Kulczewski volunteered for every type of additional training she could throughout her years in the Corps. She became the second female Marine in Okinawa to attend static rope suspension training, graduating with a broken foot. She spent time as an instructor at Corporals Course and the Motor Transport advanced school. She helped mold female recruits as a drill instructor and endured the grueling Marine Corps Instructor of Water Survival Course at Marine Corps Base Camp Johnson, N.C.

Gunnery Sgt. Lisa Kulczewski hugs her son, Brody, when picking him up from the nanny in Swansboro, N.C., March 11, 2013. Kulczewski was forced to leave her two young boys behind for two deployments to Afghanistan as a motor transport operator in 2010 and 2011.

Gunnery Sgt. Lisa Kulczewski hugs her son, Brody, when picking him up from the nanny in Swansboro, N.C., March 11, 2013. Kulczewski was forced to leave her two young boys behind for two deployments to Afghanistan as a motor transport operator in 2010 and 2011. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Chelsea Flowers Anderson)

“I’ve gotten to do a lot of really cool things I don’t think your average woman would do,” Kulczewski said.

Along with incredible training opportunities, Kulczewski also got the chance to apply those skills to a combat environment on three combat deployments — one to Iraq and two to Afghanistan. Both deployments to Afghanistan forced her to leave behind her two young boys.

“Deploying with kids is definitely much harder,” Kulczewski said. “I had a lot of guilt that I had to work through. Then you have people judging you for leaving your kids behind and that almost makes it twice as hard to struggle through.”

Learning to juggle training, deployments and the other rigorous expectations of the Marine Corps with dinner, daycare, soccer practice and housework as a single mom hasn’t been easy for Kulczewski.

“It’s kind of like running when you’re tired,” Kulczewski said. “If you just lean forward, you’re going to catch yourself and keep going. You won’t let yourself fall.”

| More: How to cope with deployment separation |

Kulczewski has pushed herself to exceed expectations and physical fitness is no exception. She sticks to a strict workout regimen including daily, two-hour workouts in the gym.

“Gunnery Sgt. Kulczewski is an absolutely fit Marine,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph M. Marshall, staff noncommissioned officer in charge at the Marine Corps Water Survival School at Marine Corps Base Camp Johnson, N.C. “She has the epitome of a ‘can do’ attitude. She’s very dedicated and doesn’t stop. We need that type of attitude across the Marine Corps.”

Gunnery Sgt. Lisa Kulczewski works out at the Area 2 Fitness Center at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., March 11, 2013. Kulczewski works out for two hours every day to keep herself in the physical shape needed to keep up with her Marines.

Gunnery Sgt. Lisa Kulczewski works out at the Area 2 Fitness Center at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., March 11, 2013. Kulczewski works out for two hours every day to keep herself in the physical shape needed to keep up with her Marines. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Chelsea Flowers Anderson)

Kulczewski’s commitment in the gym has more than prepared her for the recent change to the female PFT to include pull-ups instead of the flexed-arm hang.

“I’m excited for this new PFT we’ve got,” Kulczewski said. “I really think these female Marines are going to show them what they’ve got. I see my girls in the gym, and they’re lifting weights, slimming down, and doing what they have to do to stay in the Marine Corps and hang with the guys. I think they’re going to get out there and they’re going to kick butt. I think our boys who are doing the minimum better get in the gym because they’re going to get shown up on the PT field.”

But even hard-chargers like Kulczewski eventually move on from the Corps. After 20 years, she plans to retire soon to focus on raising her two boys. More than likely, though, she will find another challenge to overcome, another barrier to break and another stereotype to shatter outside the Marine Corps.

    Related Posts

  • Female Marine a knockout in MMA

    January 29th, 2014 // By Lance Cpl. Jonathan Boynes

    The night air vibrated with energy as Sgt. Misha Nassiri and her opponent entered the ring. They stared each other down while the referee addressed the basic rules of the match. The ring’s entrance was  [Read more...]

  • 2013 Year in Photos (June)

    December 19th, 2013 // By Marine Corps Social Media

    Honoring the Fallen Operation Nightmare Sea Wings Dawn Blitz Marine Corps Potpourri JAN | FEB | MAR | APR | MAY | JUL | AUG | SEP |  OCT | NOV | DEC | Year in Photos Overview    

  • Navajo Code Talkers: The Uncrackable Language

    November 22nd, 2013 // By Cpl. Chelsea Flowers Anderson

    Navajo Code Talker Chester Nez was born “among the oak trees” in Chichiltah, N.M. He spent his childhood herding sheep for his grandmother before leaving the close-knit community to attend a boarding high school in  [Read more...]

  • 2012 Year in Photos (December)

    January 8th, 2013 // By Marine Corps Social Media

    Close Air Support Santa’s Angels We’ll Be Marines in the Morning War Cry Down by the Bay All Is Calm, All Is Bright JAN | FEB | MAR | APR | MAY | JUN | JUL  [Read more...]

  • Dogs of War: Friends and Saviors of Marines in Afghanistan

    April 5th, 2012 // By Cpl. Reece Lodder

    GARMSIR DISTRICT, Afghanistan— Without the Marine’s watchful eyes and his dog’s trained nose, the round metal container packed with 40 pounds of homemade explosives could have wreaked destruction on their patrol. The Feb. 8 security  [Read more...]

  • MagicLady

    Outstanding!

  • http://www.facebook.com/brandon.tucker.509 Brandon Tucker

    so much HYUT