CAMP H. M. SMITH, Hawaii --
At first glance, Staff Sgt. Jamie J. Rae doesn’t seem any different from the next Marine. Like many female service members, she balances being a wife and mother with her career. What sets her apart has earned her the respect of the Marines who know her story. She’s stood apart from her peers since she joined the Marine Corps and she was one of the first female Marine Corps Martial Arts Program instructor trainers.
Rae, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific’s financial management resource analyst, was born to be a Marine. Her grandfather was a Marine and once she decided the military was her path in life, she hit the ground running.
“Once I realized I wanted to join the military instead of going to college, I knew the Marine Corps was the only branch I was going to go in,” she said.
In August of 1998, Rae reported to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., where, upon graduation, she was meritoriously promoted to private first class for out-performing her peers as one of the top recruits in her platoon.
After completing Marine Combat Training at Camp Geiger, N.C., Rae reported to Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., for training as a radio technician. During her training, Rae earned a meritorious promotion to lance corporal for being the top of her class, but had already met the required nine months for promotion and took her regular promotion instead.
Rae reported to Camp Courtney, Okinawa, Japan, as a radio technician in July of 1999 where she outshined her peers yet again, earning a meritorious promotion to corporal.
In June of 2001, she was stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif., where her experiences in Okinawa allowed her to continue to shine, earning her a reputation as a “go-to” Marine.
“I had come from ‘Oki’ where the standards were really high,” she said. “It wasn’t that Pendleton Marines weren’t locked on, it was that ‘Oki’ Marines were expected to go the extra mile because we were representing the Marine Corps in another country.”
She had transferred to Camp Pendleton as a tan belt, the lowest level of MCMAP, but at the time, MCMAP was new to the Marine Corps and the majority of Marines had yet to qualify for their tan belts, which gave her a leg up on her peers. Her unit needed instructors and she took the opportunity.
“There weren’t a lot of females in my platoon,” she said. “I was more eligible than a lot of the guys.”
Her triumphs weren’t without adversity however. Rae dealt with the ignorance of some of her male counterparts on more than one occasion.
“Just like when I went to Corporal’s Course, it was me with a bunch of reconnaissance and infantry Marines,” Rae said. “I got used to coming into classes where guys think females can’t hack it, but they tend to develop a different opinion when they see a female can handle her own.”
After earning her MCMAP instructor certification, she again won a meritorious promotion board for sergeant but had the composite score for an earlier promotion and took that instead.
She then volunteered to become a MCMAP instructor trainer, a six-week course known for its demanding physical requirements.
“It sucked,” Rae said. “It was 12 hours a day, six days a week. It was the most humbling experience I’ve ever had. You’re constantly doing obstacle courses and no one pulls their punches when they spar.”
Despite how far she’d come, she still dealt with macho egos at the instructor trainer course. But just as she had done before, she proved she could handle herself.
“I pulled a gunny’s arm out of his socket,” she said. “It was an accident, but he really didn’t appreciate being beat by a girl. They wanted to wrestle me like a guy, but I played it smart. I knew I couldn’t out muscle them, so I curled up and defended myself until they tired themselves out and then I gained the upper hand.”
She later deployed to Iraq in 2003 with Combat Service Support Battalion-12 as a platoon sergeant with more than 60 Marines under her charge.
Despite climbing up the ladder at an accelerated speed for her occupation, Rae was unable to re-enlist due to a lack of available positions in her job. She realized the only way to continue her career was to join the Marine Corps Active Reserve Program and change her occupation.
“At the time, I thought going reserves was the worst thing ever, but looking back, it might have been one of the best things that ever happened to me,” she said. “I didn’t really care what my job was though, I just wanted to be a Marine.”
Before reporting to Camp Johnson, N.C., to begin her training as an accounting technician, Rae went back home for her five-year high school reunion where her life took an unexpected turn. She reconnected with her high school sweetheart, Tyson Rae.
She reported to Marine Corps Mobilization Command in Kansas City, Mo., in August of 2003. Checking into her new command, the red tab on her MCMAP belt, worn by martial arts instructor trainers, raised the expectations of her leaders.
“I tell my junior Marines that you have to get used to checking into a unit and the assumption is that you have to prove yourself to the Marines,” Rae said. “I’ve had to prove myself at every duty station all over again. When I checked in and they saw that I was an instructor trainer, I became their female quota for everything. I was the color sergeant, I was instructing, you name it, I did it, because that red tab on my belt set the bar higher for me.”
In 2007, she earned a bachelor’s degree in public administration, as well as married her high school sweetheart, who decided to become a Marine.
“I told him, ‘You better become an officer because I’m not going to be married to some (private first class),’” she said, laughing.
After her marriage, Rae gained an appreciation for the lives of civilian spouses married to active-duty service members. During her pregnancy with her first child, born in 2008, her husband 2nd Lt. Tyson Rae was stationed in Hawaii while she remained in Kansas City.
In 2009, after her promotion to staff sergeant, she transferred and assumed her current duties at MarForPac. Since then, her life has considerably changed, but she’s still the same Marine she’s always been, doing her job while maintaining a high standard across the board. But now she juggles her career with earning a master’s degree, being a mother and a wife now pregnant with her second child.
“If I had to describe her in a couple words, I’d say she’s well-rounded,” said Sgt. Lori Matney, MarForPac’s multinational logistics chief, and Rae’s workout partner. “She does it all and handles it all gracefully. She’s what you expect from a Marine, an instructor and much more. We were running together one day and she noticed a Marine who was sandbagging his MCMAP training, she went right up to him and lit a fire under his butt. She made him stop slacking instantly.
“That’s the kind of Marine she is,” Matney continued. “She’s a role model for all Marines.”
Her husband is currently deployed to Afghanistan, but after his return and the birth of their second child, the Raes plan to be stationed back in Kansas City.
Looking back on her life so far, Rae is happy with how it’s turned out.
“Being a mom was the next big step in my life, which is what I’m doing now,” she said. “I tell all my Marines, whether they are male or female, don’t forget where you came from and don’t lose focus. Be the person you want to be. I want to be a Marine, a wife and mom, and that’s who I am.”