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Face of Defense: Marine Celebrates Three Decades of Service

By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jason Hernandez
Special to American Forces Press Service

AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq, Sept. 17, 2009 – People have the option of serving two to four years in the U.S. military, but some choose to serve many more.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Corps Col. Catherine D. Chase, right, celebrates her 50th birthday at al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Aug. 29, 2009. The celebration marked not only another year in Chase’s life, but honored almost three decades of her service. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jason Hernandez

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

One Marine here decided that a few years of service just wasn’t enough. Col. Catherine Chase, the assistant chief of staff for the administrative office with II Marine Expeditionary Force, has been serving in the Marine Corps for nearly 30 years.

“I remember thinking that 20 years was going to be a long time,” Chase said. “But looking back after almost 30, it really has gone by pretty quickly; it’s hard to believe.”

Chase received her commission as an officer in 1981.

“While I was in college I had a choice of either joining the Navy or joining the Marine Corps,” Chase said. “Being from a family where my father, my grandfather and my granduncle were all Marines, the decision was already made.”

She served on active duty during her first five years in the Marines, and her first duty station was at Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris Island, S.C.

While at Parris Island, she helped to rewrite the basic training curriculum, allowing female recruits to train, fire and qualify with standard-issue service rifles as men do. She was able to do this while holding the positions of series commander and training company commander, molding young women into Marines.

“It was encouraging to watch the maturing of the Marine Corps,” Chase recalled. “To watch the realization that women could contribute significantly to the Marine Corps was truly an amazing experience.”

Years after her exit from active duty and entrance into the reserves, Chase found herself serving at a mobilization station in support of operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Not long after the Gulf War ended, Chase earned her master’s degree in business and pursued her civilian career while remaining in the reserve.

“I love being in the Marine Corps,” she added. “It’s good to know that I’m making a valuable contribution to my country.”

As Chase’s Marine Corps experience winds down and she prepares to retire, she can do so knowing that she’ll not only be taking the valuable lessons she’s learned in the Marine Corps back to her civilian career, but she’ll also be walking away knowing she has made a difference within the Marine Corps community, she said.

“I personally do not believe I could have gotten as far in my civilian career without the lessons I first learned in the Corps,” Chase said. “It has always provided a valuable set of skills for me. But one of the most important things I intend to take away from the Marine Corps is the memories of the stellar Marines that I’ve worked with over the years and all of my accomplishments during that time.”

(Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jason Hernandez serves in Multinational Force West.)

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