Bryan sitting on Sadam's throne in the Al Faw Palace
When you think of a Marine, you might think of popular media images: a tall, fit man charging into battle with a rifle in hand or a squared away soldier snapping off a salute. However, if you were to meet Kat Muehlstein Bryan, your opinion and definition of a Marine might change.
Compared to the population of men, women make up about 15% of the Marine Corps. About one percent of those women are officers, but an even smaller percentage makes up female captains. These female captains are few and far between, and Bryan, and alumnus of the Communication Studies department, can say with pride that she has achieved this honor.
Bryan has always been one to march to the beat of her own drum. "I was a very involved student [in high school] but only participated in things that were unique in themselves," she says. "I was lucky enough to get to participate in everything from powerlifting, to throwing the discus for track and field, playing percussion in the band, performing on the flag line, and being the president of the art club. I was always interested in learning things that not many others knew how to do."
Originally from Longview, TX, Bryan enlisted in the Marines the summer before her senior year of high school at the age of 17. "I have a family history of Army service so the military always something in the back of my mind as something I wanted to do. However, there was something about the Marines that screamed out to me. Other branches of the military seemed too large and I didn't want to be just a number in their forces. I liked that the Marine Corps was smaller, with higher standards, and more challenging. I'm definitely not a 9-5 worker so a unique line of work like this suited me."
She left for basic training in Parris Island, SC, only three days after graduating high school. Three months later in August 2003, she returned to Texas from boot camp and joined her first unit in Fort Worth as an Aviation Maintenance Supply Clerk. Less than a week later, Bryan was in her first college class at UNT.
She was quite busy and hard at work at only 18 years old. While in school here, she majored in Communication Studies, minored in Italian, worked her Marine Corps job, and worked nights at RBar and Rockin' Rodeo in Denton. She attended Kilgore Junior College during her time off in the summers to knock out some basic courses and make a speedy trip towards her degree. On top of this already busy schedule, she also attended Officer Candidate School in the summers through her Platoon Leaders Course commissioning program through the Marine Corps.
Officer Candidate School is similar to boot camp, but is structured for those interested in future leadership positions in the Marine Corps. The program consists of two six-week sessions in Quantico, VA, and took over Bryan's summers between her freshman and sophomore years and her junior and senior years. The program is very demanding both physically and mentally and prepares candidates for future leadership and officer positions in the Marines. "Summers in Quantico are brutally hot and humid but that was better than freezing in the snow during the winters. I truly don't know how I could describe it other than getting yelled at constantly, writing a lot of essays as punishment, physically demanding, with little sleep - all the while being screened and evaluated for your leadership capabilities and qualities. You get in great shape though."
After graduation from UNT in December 2006, Bryan attended the Basic Officer's Course, a six-month school for new officers. She called the experience "a gut check," as this program proved to be a challenge. "It was a great time just due to the friendships that came out of it, but definitely a challenge for somebody who is 5'1", 120 pounds and now training alongside 6' and taller, 200 pound men - and you're carrying the same combat load as they are and keeping up at their speed." Nonetheless, she pulled through and successfully became a Logistics Officer and was stationed in Camp Pendleton, CA, in April 2008 to April 2011.
"No matter what your age, sex, race, or background may be, a Marine is a Marine is a Marine. We all have different strengths, experiences, values, and views but when it comes down to it, we are all on the same team fighting the same fight and doing our part." - Bryan, second from right.
Bryan deployed to Iraq in October 2008 to April 2009 as a battle captain for Multi National Corps. She worked in the Joint Operations Center in the Al Faw Palace in Baghdad, working in operations tracking and reporting on U.S. military operations in Iraq. She later deployed on the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit as the Landing Support Officer for Combat Logistics Battalion 15 and was responsible for the offload and throughput support of all the Marine equipment for the ships. It was in this deployment that she fell in love with traveling, visiting places such as Guam, Tokyo, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Jordan, Pakistan, and Hawaii.
Bryan uses her Communication Studies degree everyday in her leadership role. "I loved Communication Studies from the get-go. I thought it was extremely interesting," Bryan says. "I was undecided about my major at first, and that Intro to Communications class is what hooked me." She has learned many different styles of leadership and how to communicate effectively with others. She says that her coursework from her degree gave her the confidence and ability to speak in front of others and take on the role of a leader in the organization. Combined with hard work and determination, Bryan has utilized the lessons of her Communication Studies degree to be successful in the Marines.
Bryan with one of her Jordanian students.
Kathryn Muehlstein Bryan is married to Steven Bryan, who is also a member of the Marines and alum of UNT, and is currently living in San Diego, CA. She is working as an instructor and course manager for Marines and sailors, teaching them Maritime Prepositioning Force Staff Planning. This year will mark her ninth anniversary with the Marines. She says, "There is nothing I would rather be doing and I am one of the few people I know who can truly say I am where I am meant to be."