The United States Marine Corps released a first-of-its-kind TV ad on Friday featuring a female Marine captain — the military branch's bid to recruit more women to become "the few, the proud."
The TV ad, titled "Battle Up," centers on Marine Capt. Erin Demchko, of Hackensack, New Jersey. It starts with her as a young student and moves through her life to the Marines. Demchko is seen in combat, moving through frigid water while gripping an M-16 rifle. It's the first national television Marine Corps commercial that focuses on a woman.
"I am extremely humbled to be a part of such a big production," Demchko said.
The Marine captain exemplifies the Americans who Marine Corps leaders say they need — people capable of meeting the tough physical standards required to be a Marine.
"The water was 27 degrees and coated with a layer of thick ice," Demchko said. "Giving the film production staff what they wanted, while maintaining my bearing as a Marine officer and trying not to look cold was a challenge."
A deputy commander at Camp Courtney in Okinawa, Japan, Demchko is part of the Corps' expanding effort to recruit women. Her military experience began when she applied to the U.S. Naval Academy after 9/11, according to the Pentagon.
After her first year at the academy, she said she knew she wanted to serve in the Marine Corps because of its prestige and honor. She was commissioned on May 25, 2007.
The Marine Corps is the smallest military branch under the Pentagon and has the lowest percentage of women. Though women have served in the Corps since 1918, they still make up only about 8.3 percent of the 183,000-strong Corps.
The Marine Corps has aimed to increase the percentage of women to at least 10 percent by 2019.
The Marines don't expect instant results.
Low unemployment rates, competition among employers, and the need to increase the overall size of the Marine Corps make recruiting women a challenge.
"We're facing headwinds now that we didn't have even a year ago," Maj. Gen. Paul Kennedy, head of Marine Corps Recruiting Command, said.
"There's a train wreck coming for some folks. They're not getting tail winds that they used to have — the high unemployment, the money that was associated with enlistment bonuses," Kennedy added.
While the ad "is targeted at young women who are seeking a way to challenge themselves," Demchko said it could entice anyone who wants to fight for their country.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.