By Romeo Ranoco
Long before U.S. President Barack Obama allowed female soldiers to be deployed for combat duties, the Philippines has been doing exactly that for several years, in particular among those in the Marines.
I was excited to photograph some of the women during a military exercise at a Marine base south of the capital Manila. This was not the first time that I had taken pictures of female soldiers during training exercises, but I volunteered again because this time I would be documenting new recruits.
I arrived at the base in the afternoon and was immediately briefed by the training officers, discussing my interest and the pictures that I would like to take. I wanted to take pictures of female soldiers trying out to join the “few and proud” Marines, showing their capabilities and comparing their skills, stamina and endurance with male soldiers.
There were 30 new women soldiers, about a platoon-size, trying out to be part of a Marine reconnaissance company to be organized for deployment on a troubled southern island in the Philippines. I found them fumbling over a rubber boat as they responded with confusion to orders barked by a drill sergeant. But, as they kept on rehearsing how to position themselves in a rubber boat, they were able to perfect the drills with amazing precision.
That night, I visited the women’s barracks and my camera captured them cleaning their assault rifles. A female Marine who escorted me allowed me to take some more pictures of the recruits dismantling, cleaning and putting their assault rifles back together.