Marine watches transformation of Corps over career

18 Feb 2010 | Lance Cpl. Victor A. Barrera

She may be soft-spoken, but she is no pushover. The dedication she puts into everything she does garners attention, but that is not the reason she does it. When women were looked down on in the Marine Corps by their male counterparts, she pushed on to prove to them that they were not ‘female Marines’ they were just Marines.

“She’s the kind of woman who took new Marines under her wings and helped mold them,” said Oliver Hill, president of the Northeast Community Development Corporation.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Sequoia Aldridge, senior inspector for the Marine Corps Inspector General’s office, Headquarters Battalion, Henderson Hall, Va. was awarded the 2009 Intriguing African-American Woman award for the high values that she holds.

“We look for character, leadership, continued education and community involvement among other things,” said Hill. “She had every single trait.”
The Intriguing African-American Woman award is an award that is given out once a year to 12 African-American women. To qualify their names must be submitted by three people who believe the contestant matches the traits that represent an intriguing African-American woman.

“For the past four or five years women in the military have been exceeding in all the fields required for the award,” said Hill.

Aldridge’s peers from work and church saw in her the qualities that made her an intriguing African-American woman. However she did not gain these attributes in one day, it all began when she was a young girl.

Aldridge was born in a close-knit, Cleveland neighborhood. During her childhood she participated in a number of activities and found herself to have a very competitive spirit. Her love for competition coupled with her naturally outgoing personality helped her garner several life-long friends.

One of the many people who have created lasting bonds with Aldridge was a sergeant major she met when she was just beginning her Marine Corps career.

“(Retired) Sgt. Maj. Parisa Fetherson was my noncommissioned officer in charge when I was a private first class,” said Aldridge. “She is a solid leader, extremely proficient and maintains high standards both at work and out in society.”

Aldridge added the example she set as a leader is still a strong influence in her life.

Aldridge credits the influences people like Fetherson have had on molding her life making her the woman she is today.

Throughout her time in the Marine Corps, Aldridge has made it her primary goal to pass on her knowledge to her younger Marines to help them through difficult situations.

“The most important thing we can do is take care of other people,” she said.

The knowledge and experience Aldridge uses to help others comes from more than 20 years in the Marine Corps. She worked her way up to staff sergeant and was given the option of becoming a gunnery sergeant or warrant officer.

“I was just an E-3 when I first heard of warrant officers,” said Aldridge. “I never even met one or heard of them until then, but I decided I wanted to be one because of the way the NCOs spoke of them, with so much respect and admiration.”

Being an enlisted female Marine was difficult then, being a warrant officer proved to be even harder. As women, they had to work twice as hard to earn half the respect, she said.

Fortunately for Aldridge, she possessed determination, commitment and courage, all traits she used to overcome adversity.

While attending training at The Basic School aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Aldridge showed one of her male counterparts that just because she was a female it did not make her any less of a Marine than any of the males she encountered.

“One day after training a Marine came up to me and said ‘you taught me something, you can pull your own weight,’” said Aldridge. “Everything he had known about female Marines was through his peers. I changed his perspective. He walked away with a different level of respect.”

The Marine Corps has come a long way from when Aldridge first stepped on the yellow footprints. Recruit training for females consisted of a mile and a half run, etiquette and makeup classes.

Now the playing-field has been leveled, females are treated as equals to their male counterparts.

“Those things have been set aside to ensure that we are better integrated,” said Aldridge. “We have gained a reputation. We are treated as part of the team and can compete on any level with our peers.”

Aldridge has overcome the early, negative stereotypes of female Marines and witnessed the Marine Corps’ evolution to treating women as equals throughout her career. Now she works with male Marines who treat her as an equal, a mentor, a role-model and in some cases a superior.