Oorah! Sgt. Tara-Lyn Baker became the first female Marine to graduate from the intense Winter Mountain Leaders Course on Tuesday.
The roughly six-week course, which takes place in the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif., is a rigorous program that trains 20 to 45 Marines to conduct operations in high altitudes and alpine terrain.
“You learn to how to survive. You learn how to deal with the cold. I’ve had frostbite. I’ve had hypothermia,” Baker said in a video released by the Marines. “We dealt with all the ins and outs of being up in the mountain and being in the snow, but we learned how to overcome it.
To qualify, Baker had to pass a rigorous physical test 30 days before the course began. Marines were then recommended for the program based on their performance “due to the intensity level and demanding nature of this training,” according to the official site for the U.S. Marine Corps.
“I’ve definitely been through the wringer,” she says. “Being a whole 115 pounds right now and carrying anything from 60- to 95-pound packs or dragging a sled that’s a good 65 pounds through the snow on skis, it definitely is a challenge to your body.”
Now, Baker is qualified to teach other Marines how to survive treacherous mountain climates.
“I learned what I’m capable of. I learned what I can do and what I can accomplish, and nobody can tell me that I can’t,” says Baker. “I’m proud of myself. Nobody else needs to be proud of me.”