Quantico, VA --
During the late morning hours of June 6, Jasmyn Smith found herself standing in the main rotunda of the National Museum of the Marine Corps, surrounded by friends and family. She stood at the position of attention, wearing her dress blues, as she was commissioned a second lieutenant.
Sunlight poured down through the glass atrium and illuminated the limestone walls and terrazzo floor of the museum. On display, amongst the exhibits, was a smile that stretched from ear to ear on the face of Smith’s mother, Elsy, as she pinned gold lieutenant bars on her daughter’s uniform.
The 21-year-old native of Silver Spring, Md. has accomplished a lot in a very short amount of time, which started with a chance encounter with a Marine Corps recruiter.
It was nearly five years ago when Smith spotted Gunnery Sgt. Robert Kelm in the lunchroom at Eleanor Roosevelt High School. Kelm, who at the time was a canvassing recruiter for Marine Corps Recruiting Station Baltimore, was well known by students throughout the school. He would frequently visit Roosevelt High School every week, passing out pamphlets and talking to students about the opportunities the Marine Corps has to offer.
Smith had an appointment to talk to a Maryland National Guard recruiter that week, but decided to pay a visit to the Marine recruiter who was standing right there in her high school lunchroom. Needless to say, she missed her appointment with the National Guard.
“I was sold,” said Smith. “The challenge to earn the title (of Marine), education, and the possibility of traveling appealed to me.”
Kelm, a native of Lawrence, Kan., recalls meeting Smith for the first time.
“Very mature, very smart and had a good head on her shoulders,” said Kelm. “She just wanted to be successful in life.”
Smith was certainly a qualified applicant for the Marine Corps. She was enrolled in Roosevelt High School’s prestigious Science and Technology Program, was on the yearbook staff and the cheerleading squad. However, before Kelm could put an enlistment contract in front of Smith, he had to face down one of every recruiter’s greatest obstacles: mom.
“Initially, my mom did not want me to join the Marine Corps,” said Smith. “Just like any parent, she was concerned and did not want anything to happen to me.”
After hearing how much her daughter wanted to join, Smith’s mother signed the parental consent forms, which allowed her daughter to enlist in the Marine Corps Reserve.
Smith went to every physical training session that Kelm conducted and even trained on her own time in order to better prepare herself for the rigors of recruit training.
“Prior to the Marine Corps, I did not focus on fitness,” said Smith. “Actually, I had never ran more than a mile or maybe even two. Gunnery Sgt. Kelm was like a mentor to me. He genuinely cared about his poolees. He took the time to not only help physically prepare me for recruit training, but emotionally as well.”
After Smith made it through recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., she reported to her first unit, Rations Company, 4th Supply Battalion, located at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. While there, Smith decided that she wanted to become an officer.
“One of the main reasons I decided to become an officer was because I wanted more responsibility, but more importantly, I wanted to ensure that Marines were being taken care of,” said Smith.
Kelm was able to put Smith in touch with an officer selection office where she applied for the Platoon Leader’s Course. The PLC program allowed Smith to go to college and attend two six-week increments of Officer Candidate School during the summers between her school years. Smith found the training at OCS more physically and mentally challenging than recruit training.
“There were other girls who were faster and stronger than me,” said Smith. “It worried me because I did not want my instructors or peers to see me as weak. I worked extremely hard at OCS to improve my fitness and I would say at the end I was in the best shape of my life.”
Smith’s hard work paid off. She graduated college and became a commissioned officer in the United States Marine Corps.
Like many Marines, Smith requested two particular people to pin her new rank on her uniform at her commissioning ceremony. She chose Brig. Gen. Russell A. Sanborn, the director of Marine and Family Programs, and her mom. It was obvious to everyone present at the ceremony that Elsy was a bit emotional.
“My mom is very proud,” said Smith. “When I asked her to pin me several months ago, she became teary eyed. She has always expected me to do great things. She says she is proud that I was able to accomplish such an important goal in such a short time.”