City Desk

“It’s Hard to Stand There When It’s 110 Degrees and You’re in Your Full Blues”

MaynardHistory lesson: The Marine Barracks, founded in 1801—and situated in Capitol Hill's burgeoning Barracks Row nightlife district—is the oldest active post in the Corps. Sgt. Katie Maynard, the Marine Barracks Washington liaison to the Military District of Washington, coordinates MBW events (color guards, funerals, joint ceremonial functions and state funerals), and is a ceremonial drill school instructor. A Marine for the past nine years, she lives in Fredericksburg, Va., with her husband and 5-year-old son, Eli. She spoke with Washington City Paper about the all-male Color Guards, organizing some 100 events a month and, naturally, A Few Good Men.

WCP: What exactly is the Military District of Washington?

MAYNARD: It’s a higher headquarters that oversees all the ceremonial units in Washington, D.C., and it’s on Fort McNair [at Greenleaf Point].

Where are you from?

Houghton, Mich., as far north as you can go. I think they have like 117 inches of snow already. I like warm weather, needless to say.

Why did you join the Marines?

I come from a very, very small town, and I think from my graduating class, probably 12 of us actually joined the Marine Corps, let alone other services. It’s the easiest way to get away from home and be on your own. I was in boot camp in Parris Island, then I was in Okinawa for two years, during which time I was deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Then I was at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, then here.

How did you get this job?

I got lucky. I had a choice of different places to go and ended up coming to D.C. I worked in Motor T [Motor Transport], the big buses you see all over town with the Marine logos, and then my [current] boss asked me if I wanted to work for him.

Do you find more women than men are in administrative positions in the Marine Corps?

Not really. The person who had this job before me was an infantryman. It just depends on what you’re good at doing. I love logistics and have a degree in logistics from college, so it worked out for me.

It seems all Color Guards consist of men. 

Our Color Guard is strictly male, all infantry. But who knows, in the future it might change. There are height requirements, they have to be between 74 and 77 inches tall—they’re always the tall, lean ones—and that’s usually a deterrent for women anyway. They get screened when in boot camp and then get selected and come up and do two years here.

What are they screened for?

For height, looks, appearance—and because we are in the middle of D.C., we’ve got to look at their backgrounds. Being here is not like being at a normal Marine Corps base. We’re in the middle of a city with a lot of civilian personnel, so we have to check their maturity. They get interviewed and their backgrounds get looked through.

As the Color Guard liaison, what do you do?

I basically look at the requests, the times, where they have to be, and push all that information out to our drivers and then to the marines that actually go out and do the events. I’m the middleman.

How many events do you do?

We do upwards of 100 a month, including funerals, opening ceremonies, honor flights, events at the U.S. Capitol and for all different kinds of political organizations. Most of the funerals [we do] are at Arlington, probably 99 percent. Every once in a while we’ll have to send our body bearers elsewhere, usually for someone high profile. We sent them to Florida for Bill Young’s funeral [the senior Republican in the U.S. House who died at 82 this past October].

Why would the Senate, say, want a Color Guard?

Any time the national anthem is played and you have the national flag you present the colors, or you’re presenting to veterans, lots of reasons.

So, could I get a Color Guard? 

Depending on the event, you could.

Could I do it for a birthday party?

Well, no—for bigger things.

Does the Evening Parade at the Barracks held during the spring/summer draw a big audience?

We can fit over 5,000 people, and we’ll fill the house rain or shine. Even after working here for two years it’s just, wow—they put on quite a show, and there’s so much hard work put into it. The Marines drill three hours a day, and the Silent Drill Platoon [a 24-man rifle platoon] drills all the time, all day. I teach a lot of drill, so watching them come out for the first time after seeing them practice for four months is really exciting.

What did you have to do to become a drill instructor? 

Everyone goes through the three-week course when they get here, then I just continued to practice. It fascinated me. I never thought I was good enough, but luckily the drill master works in my office, so anytime I wasn’t necessarily working, he was like, “Shouldn’t you be practicing?” One day he said, “One of the companies is short and needs someone to march,” and he asked me. I thought he was joking. I was like, “Are you messing with me?” because everyone knew I wanted to march. He was like, “No, get your stuff, we’ve got to go.” I just fell into the position of marching. And when it came around to a class for instructors, the drillmaster said, “Why aren’t you ready? You have to teach class in 10 minutes” and I said, “Oh, I guess I’m teaching now, too.”

What do you do with uncoordinated Marines?

Positive encouragement at all times. For some people it’s just not their thing. It wasn’t mine when I got here. And not everyone marches. After the training there are try outs.

What’s the hardest detail they have to do?

I think it’s more mental than any of the actions. It’s hard to stand there when it’s 110 degrees and you’re in your full blues.

Is fainting common?

It happens. You usually won’t see actual staff members fainting, but maybe someone in one of the platoons.

Do you try to cart them away quietly?

Yes! Friday nights [Evening Parade] it’s a little easier because it’s dark out. So when spotlights move they move them out. Sometimes people laugh, they’re like, “That person fell down!” But I challenge anybody to go out there and do what these kids do. And there is always a doctor on call. No matter where we’re at there’s medical personnel pretty close by. Usually Navy Corpsmen—they come everywhere with us.

They’re there for the Marines, or the guests attending? 

Both. The biggest issue is heat, especially for older veterans, it really takes a toll on them.

What’s your personal connection to D.C.—what do you do in the District?

We’ll go and cruise the restaurants on 8th Street if we have time. I also run a lot. Right now I run up to nine miles, but that’s because I’m training for a half-marathon. Running in the city is awesome. I don’t like driving in it because of the traffic, so I run to see the monuments. You can see so many things when you run. I sightsee by jogging.

What’s your opinion of Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men?
[Laughs] There are all kinds of different personalities in the Marines, you never know what you’re going to get. We’re just normal people. You find people that are intense, but a lot of it depends on the situation. I mean, right now we’re in the middle of D.C., we’re not being shot at.

 Photo via Military District of Washington
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