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Fayetteville Woman Adds to Citadel History

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CHARLESTON, S.C. — History is in the making at a military school with a long-running tradition.

Next weekend, Nancy Mace will become the first female cadet to graduate fromThe Citadel, the formerly all-male military institution.

Meanwhile, a Fayetteville woman has reached another first at The Citadel.

Among more than 1,600 male cadets at the Citadel, Mandy Garcia is standing strong. The 20-year-old is just one of 41 women at the school and is its first female athlete.

"I believe the Corps functions better in an all male environment but I have several female classmates I respect, and Mandy's one of them," says Cadet Edward Doyle.

It has been three years since a Supreme Court decision allowed women to enter the school that has been all male for 154 years.

The first female, Shannon Faulkner, did not make it through the first week. While Faulkner opened the doors, Garcia believes Faulkner also made it tougher for women to walk through successfully.

"She caused us not to start on the same foot as the males. There is still this attitude of "OK, are you going to be like Shannon? You have to work twice as good to even be average to them," Garcia said.

As a sophomore, Garcia has proven herself in the classroom and on the track.

Her skills have earned her yet another first.

When she returns to the Citadel in the fall, she will gain significant rank by becoming the first female 1st Sergeant.

"I think this is going to be the most valuable leadership experience that I will ever come across, considering there is so much adversity and people are so not ready for change," Garcia says.

She is facing the struggle of change, but sometimes it's not easy.

We saw that first hand when she was inspecting freshman cadets as part of her first sergeant training. Many of her male counterparts did not let our cameras discourage them from mocking her.

Mandy Garcia thought it best to stop the inspection and not draw any more attention to herself.

"I don't think this is such a good idea any more," she decided. "People are going crazy in the company."

"Maybe it's because she's getting rank, maybe it's because she's one of the successful females here. Whatever it may be, the rest of the cadets in my battalion had a hard time dealing with that," said 1st Battalion Commander Ty Yount.

There have been other incidents as well. Last year a group of five male cadets threw a rock at her. There are constant snide remarks, but Garcia tries to not let any of it get her down.

"I've just got to keep on going," she says. "Everyone has bad days. This is what I chose. I came here. I knew it from the beginning. If I back down, I'll show them I'm weak."

"She realizes she has a big hill to climb and she's willing to do it. That kind of courage in a mostly male institution is very courageous," says Citadel cadet Kenny Bath.

Mandy Garcia has the will to not only survive, but to thrive in the rigid structure known as The Citadel.

And the challenge won't end when she graduates.

Garcia wants to go to another place where very few females have been before. Her goal is set on flying an F-16 fighter jet for the Air Force.

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Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Michael Joyner, Photographer
Kay Miller, Web Editor

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