NEW YORK -- Corporal Liza Nicholas is a 27-year-old mother from the Bronx. Sgt. Geralyn Rolon was born and bred in Brooklyn. Lance Cpl. Leanne Bohach is an 18-year-old, blue-eyed native of Long Island. Lance Cpl. Elizabeth Quinones used to sing backup for Christina Aguilera. These four Marines perform at events all over New York as an all-female Marine color guard from 6th Communication Battalion in Brooklyn, N.Y.
"We hear a lot of 'you go girls' from the crowd," Nicholas said of their public appearances. "They're used to seeing the male color guards represent the Marine Corps," she said. "When we're [in public], we're representing the Corps and the female Marines."
The detail was formed soon after the 6th Comm Inspector-Instructor First Sergeant was tasked with providing a Color Guard for Radio City Music Hall.
"A color guard was requested for a WNBA (Women's National Basketball Association) event preparing for the female basketball Olympic team," said 1st Sgt. Charles M. Kurz, I&I First Sergeant at 6th Comm. "So I thought it would be appropriate to have an all-female Marine color guard." Marines from different shops in the battalion came together to make his idea work.
"We all work separately --in different sections-- but when we come together, we get along great," said Quinones. "We all click," added Rolon. That has helped them with their teamwork, as Rolon has found carrying the American Flag.
"When I can't see because of the flag blowing in front of me, for example, I have six other pairs of eyes to guide me," said Rolon. "We all put in..." started Quinones, "A piece of ourselves," Nicholas finished, without missing a beat. The Marines have picked up the habit of finishing each other's sentences. "We help each other out," said Bohach.
Since they've presented the colors at different events around New York, the Marines have often found themselves in the public's eye. As Marines, they've received plenty of attention.
"A lot of people come up to us and thank us" said Quinones. Other times, the Marines receive extra attention, which they assume is due to their gender and their uniforms. "We have a lot of people come up to us and ask us to take photos with them," she said. "One time we were walking through Little Italy, and there was a guy who followed us, taking pictures, as we were walking down the street."
The Marines were quick to add that the extra attention isn't because they present the colors any differently than any other color guard --people just don't normally see a detail comprised entirely of female Marines. According to the 2004 Marine Corps Almanac, enlisted female Marines make up only 6 percent of the Corps to begin with.
"My cousin has been in the Marine Corps almost twenty years, and I asked him if he'd ever heard of a color guard with just female Marines," said Quinones. "He had never heard of one."
The Marines have presented the colors at several events so far, including at the U.S. Open and a NASDAQ stock market opening. Depending on the mission, another 6th Comm Marine could take the place of any one of the females at any time, which would take away their "all-female" distinction. Meanwhile, the ladies said they enjoy representing the Corps as four female Marines.
"We step into that spotlight, and whether we like it or not, we become role models," said Quinones. "Not just to little girls, but also to people our age, Latinas, Caucasians, mothers, and daughters."