Rare Female Officer In Dangerous Army EOD
by U.S. Army Pfc. Matthew Marsilia
May 20, 2020
Improvised explosive devices are one of the leading causes of
casualties for the U.S. military since the earliest days of the War
Soldiers in explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) are
tasked with handling and safely disposing of unexploded ordnance,
The male-dominated military occupational
specialty (MOS) has a long and rigorous school to become qualified
as an EOD technician, with one of the highest attrition rates in the
For 26-year-old 1st Lt. Marae Kalian, an explosive
ordnance disposal officer, assigned to 71st Ordnance Group (EOD),
Fort Carson, Colorado, overcoming obstacles is not foreign to her.
And as a new EOD officer at her unit, she looks forward to starting
her journey in the dangerous career field.
February 28, 2020 - First Lieutenant Marae Kalian, an explosive ordnance disposal officer, assigned to 71st Ordnance Group (EOD), Fort Carson, Colorado, poses next to a bomb suit. After graduating West Point in 2018, Kalian was one of 10 other cadets to branch ordnance with EOD. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Matthew Marsilia)
optimistic to finally get a chance to do what I learned all those
months in school,” said Kalian.
The U.S. Military
Academy graduate, and native of Blythe, California, Kalian always
knew she possessed both work ethic and determination. After
graduating from Palo Verde High School in 2011, she had hopes of
attending a military service academy in her future.
focused on being well rounded as a student, and I ended up finding
out I was going to the Air Force Academy for prep school in December
2010 before I graduated,” said Kalian.
For young Kalian,
preparatory school wasn’t everything she envisioned it to be.
“When I was at prep school, I was really homesick and didn’t
quite have the bigger picture of things,” Kalian said. “You lose a
lot of your privileges and have to earn them back. All the things
you value as important when you’re young, aren’t really that
important in the grand scheme of things.”
Kalian then made
the tough decision to turn down her appointment to the Air Force
Academy from preparatory school and applied to colleges instead. She
was soon accepted into the University of California, Los Angeles in
After spending a year at UCLA, Kalian decided
this wasn’t the right path for her.
“UCLA was fun, and I
learned a lot, but once I was in that academy environment where you
have 10 to 15 people in your classes, and you really get a chance to
know your instructors, the bonds you make are very different
compared to civilian friendships,” said Kalian.
leaving UCLA she worked for a pesticide company for a year. It was
during this time where she decided to apply to the academies once
again. She would have to endure her second congressional interview
to be granted nomination, this time to West Point.
had to fight for myself and explain how I was young and didn’t
understand what was in front of me the first time,” said Kalian.
Luckily one of the panel members, Capt. Christopher Jimenez, was
an Air Force Academy graduate, who happened to graduate with one of
the officers that oversaw Kalian at prep school.
help of his influence, Jimenez and the other panel members gave
Kalian another chance. She was granted nomination to West Point, and
shortly after was accepted.
Now, she had one more pressing
matter to take care of before attending the academy.
a high school ROTC instructor who told me I wasn’t going to get into
an academy because I’m a woman,” said Kalian. “It was a really good
feeling when I went back there for him to sign paperwork after my
acceptance to West Point.”
She went on to graduate from West
Point on May 26, 2018, and became one of ten other Cadets to branch
ordnance with EOD.
It was on the first day of EOD School, the
very beginning of the 37-week course, where she befriended the only
other female in her class, 1st Lt. Hannah Jerome, 716th Explosive
Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion,
4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division.
“As the only two females in our class, we relied heavily on
each other both in and out of training,” said Jerome.
Soldiers bonded through their success throughout school, and in some
cases, even in failure.
“On one particular test day, Kalian
and I happened to both fail,” said Jerome. “Without missing a beat,
Kalian accepted reality once the results of her test were final. She
got down to business, studied hard, and came back the next morning,
having let go of the previous day’s failure, focused on the
challenge ahead. She passed with flying colors, but used the
experience as a learning process to help her succeed throughout the
rest of the course.”
Jerome believes Kalian’s confidence in
her abilities and resilience make her the type of leader other
Soldiers want to follow and emulate.
“She puts her Soldiers
first, making sure their needs are met before her own,” said Jerome.
“Her selflessness and belief in others contributed to the success of
our entire class.”
Kalian, now two months into her first
unit, feels right at home.
“The Soldiers treat me the same as
everybody else,” Kalian said. “It’s not like somebody can put on the
bomb suit for me, go take my hands, and then proceed to do the
procedure in my brain. I need to be able to do that by myself. I’m
new to the MOS, so maybe my EOD skills aren’t where someone who’s
been in for eight years is, but I hope that they can see I’m willing
In one of the most dangerous jobs in the Army,
Kalian looks forward to tackling any obstacle ahead of her while at
the same time leaving a positive footprint.
“The impact I
want to leave, especially on my Soldiers, is for them to know that I
cared about them,” said Kalian. “You can be the best at physical
training, you can be the best at your job, but the Army’s greatest
asset is its people.”
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