AN Afghanistan-veteran-turned-Instagram-star has recalled being sent to an all-male unit by mistake after she enlisted.
Caroline Elizabeth Page, 29, now works as an influencer and fitness model, but just ten years ago was preparing for her first deployment with the US military.
Page was one of only two women in as basic training class of 160 people, and says she wanted to change perceptions of who could serve overseas.
“I have always loved breaking stereotypes, so the shock I knew I’d get when I told people I was joining the military really motivated me," she said.
“I wanted to show that girls who like to dress up and wear makeup are not just this clichéd group of women.
“I was sent to an all-male Combat Engineer unit by mistake.
"And at that time, around 2010, females were not allowed in combat positions.”
'MOST ALIVE YOU'LL EVER FEEL'
Page enlisted because she wanted to leave her small town in Maine and gain some independence, and says she loved her time in the army.
“For many people it’s the most scared they’ve ever felt – but it’s also the most alive they’ll ever feel," she said.
"The bond you create alongside the people you deploy with is unmatched by any relationship you have with anyone else.
"They become your family, your brothers and sisters for life.
“I always hear from my military and veteran friends how they wish they could get deployed again.
“And for someone in the civilian world, I can understand how that sounds absolutely crazy."
Even though her experience was positive, Page eventually left the job after becoming “depleted and exhausted, both physically and mentally”.
She now works as an influencer, sharing images themed around fitness and patrioitsm on Instagram, where she has a following of 18,000.
She says people are often surprised to learn about her past life when they meet her for the first time.
“Once I went out to dinner with a male friend," she said.
“When the waitress found out one of us had served in the military, she instantly turned to my friend and said, ‘Thank you for your service!’
“It made me laugh because I realised that nobody ever expects me to be the one who has served in the military.”
Despite the nature of her previous job, Page says it's best not to take yourself too seriously.
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“If I had to describe my vibe, I guess I would say it's a patriotic and fitness infusion, with some added cheekiness," she said.
“I am goofy and silly and I love to laugh."
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