CALIFORNIA, United Statesâ€”When Maria Mamarilâ€™s father, Brigido Mamaril, retired as a culinary specialist from the US Navy, he didnâ€™t expect his daughter to be one child to follow in his military footsteps.
She climbed the military ranks quickly, earning two degrees, serving two tours of duty in the Middle East, and overcoming depression while being a military wife and mother to two young children.
Among the nine siblings, Mamaril says she was the only child who chose the military as a life and career.
The US Navy was equally impressed, and along with two fellow petty officers at the US Naval Medical Center in San Diego, promoted the 44-year-old Pampanga native to the militaryâ€™s highest rank for an enlisted sailor, master chief petty officer, at a special ceremony.
Maria signed up for the Navy with the intention of using the GI Bill to help pay for her nursing college tuition. In 1987, she was assigned to her first ship in the supply department on the USS Acadia, one of the first ships to accept women.
At the time, she was only one of three Filipinas on board, an environment laced with sexual discrimination. â€œMales were scared of working with women due to (a climate of) sexual harassment phobia,â€ said the 5â€™2, 110 lb Filipina.
She attended medical school during her off hours and was promoted to hospital corpsman third class within a few months.
She attributes her success to her mother, Helen Mamaril. â€œIâ€™ve always been focused. My mom gave me good training throughout my life.â€
By 1992, she was working in San Diego, married to a hospital corpsman chief and caring for their first child. After graduating from Surgical Technician School she was assigned to boot camp with the US Marines, since the Marines do not have their own medical unit.
She continued to overcome racial stereotypes, even among her subordinates. â€œHere I am, this Asian woman leading them, and you can feel itâ€™s not going well with them. I think I was the first Filipina to be with the Marines even in the operating room.â€
Five years later she was nominated Senior Sailor of the Year while working at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD. In January 2003 she was deployed overseas for Iraqi Freedom in Northern Kuwait. Her surgical company was in charge of evacuating the Marines, Army, sailors, and civilians.
â€œNothing can prepare you when you see a Marine in a body bag because youâ€™re still a human being. You donâ€™t see that every day. That was really a totally humbling experience.â€ Besides death and suffering, there were other additional unknowns such as the phobia of chemical biological warfare.
Those six months took a toll on her. She returned to San Diego and worked as leading chief, petty officer in the Intensive Care Unit and Critical Care Unit but she was a different person this time.
Maria says she didnâ€™t get the needed time and counseling to help her decompress and deal with her depression. â€œI had trauma from the war and I had to figure myself out again.â€
Despite the challenges, Mamaril was able to earn a BA degree in Health Care. â€œYou have to channel your tension into something positive through therapy and exercise.â€
In 2007, she earned a MA Degree in Security Administration. During that same year, she was deployed to the Arabian Seas twice.
As master chief and mother of two, Maria still loves working with patients and mentoring the next generation of new recruits. â€œItâ€™s really a big change for them (Filipinos and women) to see someone like them at the very top.â€ She says road that she took benefited her in the end and can open the door for others.
She says a lot has changed in the military: Mandated policies prohibiting sexual harassment and post-traumatic stress treatment programs have long been implemented.
As for her father? Heâ€™s very proud of his daughter.Linkback: https://tubagbohol.mikeligalig.com/index.php?topic=29422.0