Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. -- One of our own, Cpl. MaryBeth Monson, a structural mechanic with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13 (MALS-13) aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., and a native of Weston, Idaho, has been selected as the United Service Organization’s (USO) Woman of the Year Military Leadership Award. This award recognizes women who have played important roles for our armed forces during some of the most challenging times in our nation's history.
Monson is one of five enlisted female service members from each branch of service of the armed forces who will each receive the award. The USO will also honor a senior female military officer and one fallen female service member in commemoration of their dedication, achievements, and service to the country.
“I almost passed out, my brother, who works with avionics here at MCAS Yuma, just left for Afghanistan in support of 3rd Battalion, 11th Marines, and I found out that morning [about receiving the award], so it was a very emotional day for me,” said Monson about hearing she was nominated and selected to receive the Military Leadership Award. “I knew I was nominated, but I didn’t think I was going to win, but I guess someone thought I was worthy of it.”
Monson was nominated by her command for the USO Woman of the Year Military Leadership Award for her selfless dedication in leading and mentoring others as a structural mechanic for aircraft in support of Marine Attack Squadron 211 (VMA 211). Her service in the military includes a deployment to Afghanistan, where she was deployed for six months from April until October 2012.
For her courageous acts and leadership under extreme conditions while deployed, she will be awarded when the USO holds its 47th USO Woman of the Year Luncheon on Thursday, May 2, 2013, at the Pierre Hotel in New York City.
“I’m nervous, but looking forward to going to New York City to accept the award,” said Monson.
The 2013 Woman of the Year Distinguished Service Award will be presented to Gisel Ruiz, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. U.S.
The awards and recognition highlights each individual’s incredible story of exceptional bravery and grace under the most extreme conditions.
“I got deployed in April in support of VMA-211 to Afghanistan, I was a part of MALS-13 attached to (Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 16) MALS-16 in support of VMA 211, at Camp Bastion (Helmand Province, Afghanistan) and on Sept. 14 we were attacked,” said Monson.
“It was my first deployment, and it was not what I expected. You’re told what you are going to do and then the attack happened and it threw a curveball. It’s not an experience I wanted to have, but I’m glad I had it,” said Monson.
“I honestly feel I did everything any other Marine would do,” said Monson about her reactions to responding to the attack. “It was terrifying, and it took awhile for my hands to stop shaking. It could have been worse than it was out there. You had to understand, it was us or them.”
Her duties while deployed included working with the AV-8B Harriers and other aircraft in support of VMA 211 and continually mentor and train her junior Marines within her shop.
“I picked up corporal while deployed and that meant a bigger role for leadership,” said Monson about mentoring and training others to become better Marines, supporting and helping one another grow.
Her true leadership skills showed while deployed, Monson was roommates with Navy personnel and during the attack on the base she took action and kept the personnel within her care calm until security could be set up. She also helped in fortifying and building on the flight line for three days to keep the base secure after the attack, said Monson.
During the attack on Camp Bastion while she was deployed, the Taliban had attacked and destroyed several of the squadron's Harrier aircraft.
She volunteered her time to clean up the Harriers that were destroyed in the attack and spent about 80 hours there, said Monson. Everyone was involved in security and clean up operations after the attack. During this time all of their Marine training was important, she explained about her encounter with the tragic event.
Her unique experience allows her to train and mentor her Marines to make them efficient at their job, and continue leading and mentoring junior Marines under their care.
“It just shows I’m doing the right thing, putting out my best and that my Marines are doing their best,” said Monson about the Military Leadership Award and how it affects her junior Marines.
She credits her optimistic outlook and leadership skills to volunteering and says that keeping the morale of junior Marines up is by helping them get out and serve the local community.
As for her continuation in the Marine Corps after her term of service is up, she says she is still in the decision making mode.
“If I re-enlist I’ll do MSG (Marine Security Guard duty) and if I don’t re-enlist my other option is to go to nursing school,” said Monson. “There are both positives and negatives, but they’re about equal. If I do MSG I would be able to travel, meet different people, experience different cultures, but I would miss my family because I have a very close family. If I go to nursing school, I will have a career that I always wanted, but I will miss the camaraderie of the Marine Corps.”
All in all, she humbly credits her nomination and award to being true to herself and doing what she knows is best for herself and her Marines while continually growing as leader.
“I’m just a small town girl in a big city that’s doing big things now,” said Monson about receiving the Military Leadership Award for the USO Woman of the Year. “Everything is a new experience and it’s always good to visit new places.”
“I will be interviewed the day before the award luncheon and my parents are flying in and will be there,” said Monson about going to New York City to receive the award. “I’ve driven through there, but never thought it was as exciting, but now it’ll be a good visit.”