BEAUFORT, SC (WTOC) - Parris Island, it's where Marines are made. As a drill instructor, Staff Sgt. Octaya McGee is doing her part to help female recruits learn what it takes to become one of the few and the proud.
"Its fun, it takes a lot of energy, passion, a lot of long hours. You really have to want to be here and just be here to make Marines," McGee said.
While you wouldn't know it by watching her in action, but this is McGee's first platoon of recruits and as she strives to teach them the skills and discipline needed to graduate boot camp. She's drawing on her past experiences and time in combat.
"I left back in August of 08' from Camp Pendleton, Calif., and I went to Iraq," she said. "I was there for seven months. I was a battalion ammo chief, so I supplied ammo for Marines going out on convoys. We had operations up north but where I was was pretty safe so I wasn't worried, just did my day to day routine."
And being a woman in combat?
"Not too different than it would be for a male," McGee said. "We pretty much did everything that the males with us did."
But McGee said that one of the most challenging parts was being away from her children and her family.
"Not that men don't have an attachment but it's that motherly thing you have and so it's a little harder on the kids, not having their mother around to hug them, hold them, put them to sleep at night," McGee said. "I missed them but it didn't hinder me from doing my job, just making sure they knew I was ok and that I was going to come home. They would write me letters. I would call sometimes. My dad is retired Army so he would call me, he ended up going to Iraq at the same time so I get to talk with him."
With combat experience under her belt, she works around the clock training the recruits in her company, knowing the importance of making sure each and every one is prepared for combat.
"It's challenging but its rewarding in the end and I enjoy that," McGee said. "I'm very proud to serve my county. It's an honor to serve my country. I'd do it again in a heart beat because we need people willing to sacrifice their lives to make sure we're safe. That's what we're here for."
The recruits in McGee's platoon are scheduled to graduate on April 1.