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"That’s when they came to me and said, 'Sergeant V, you’re going into Kuwait.'" (Video interview, 19:23)

   Maria C. Villescas
Collection image
Maria Villescas, detail from video interview [n.d.]
War: Persian Gulf War, 1991
Branch: Marine Corps
Unit: 1st Force Service Support Group
Service Location: Camp Pendleton, California; Okinawa, Iwakuni, Japan; Saudi Arabia; Camp Lejeune, North Carolina
Rank: Sergeant
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To many of her Marine comrades, Sergeant Maria Connie Villescas seemed like an unlikely candidate for the role of truck driver, being female and 5’2” tall. Assigned to work in motor transport, she drove tractor-trailers and became certified to teach new Marines how to drive 16-wheeler vehicles—the first woman to do so—before deploying to Saudi Arabia to serve in the Persian Gulf War. Arriving in late October 1990, she helped transport food and supplies during the day, and weathered aerial bombings at night. Though women were banned from participating in combat operations, as the ground war picked up, she and the female drivers underneath her were instructed to take a forward unit into combat in Kuwait, driving through minefields to the front lines.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (5 clips)
» Part 1 
Download: video (55 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (5 items)
Driving tractor trailers for the first four years she served; going to instructor school; first female instructor for 16-wheel vehicles, earning the respect of the men she was instructing; leading by example. (02:00) Typical day during her time in Saudi Arabia; first month was slow; as war ramped up, had to adjust to bombings. (05:38) Getting orders to drive into Kuwait; milestone of female tractor trailer drivers going into combat; dealing with her menstrual period during these missions; determination of women to get things done. (05:16)
Intense stress she felt during bombings; lingering effects of war; witnessing the ugliness of humanity. (03:49) Status as a gay women; feeling like she had to constantly hide; lasting effects of feeling this way. (03:37) 

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  October 26, 2011
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