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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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AWARD PRESENTATION—Marine Sgt. Louise Nowak, former Pound resident, was presented the most prestigious award offered by the United States Marine Corps to recognize achievements of officer candidates. Brigadier General James W. Bierman, Jr. made the presentation to Nowak on Feb. 20 at Carroll University in Waukesha where she is a senior.

Sgt. Louise Nowak of Pound Wins Marines Highest Award

Louise Nowak, daughter of Thomas and Joanne Nowak of Pound, has come a long, long way since she graduated from Coleman High School in 2006, and she almost certainly will go much farther.

During ceremonies in the Stackner Ballroom at Carroll College in Waukesha on Thursday, Feb. 20, she became the first lady Marine ever to receive the Commandant’s Trophy, the most prestigious award offered by the United States Marines to recognize achievements of its officer candidates. The award states Nowak was selected for her exceptional academic performance, physical fitness and demonstration of leadership at Officer Candidate School.

Carroll University was recognized also for its contribution to Candidate Nowak’s development.

In presenting the award, Brigadier General James W. Bierman, Jr. noted that he was struck by a number of things when reading Candidate Nowak’s biography, among them that she enlisted during a time of crisis in 2006, “...one of the worst times for our country in terms of what was happening in Iraq...It was bloody, chaotic and everybody was questioning everything.”

In the summer of 2013 she was the honor graduate from Officers Candidate School from a group of 212 that included only 39 other females. Bierman said Nowak attained the honor in equal competition with all candidates, males and females. He stressed that all were held to the same standard in determining the best in Officers Candidate School.

Speakers at the awards ceremony in addition to the much decorated Bierman, were Captain C. Luebke USMC Officer Selection Officer Milwaukee; Dr. Theresa Barry, vice president of Carroll University; Dr. Douglas Hastad, president of Carroll University, and Anna Kirch, CVSO President and Air Force Veteran, representing the Carroll Student Veterans Organization.

A group of approximately 30 relatives and friends from the Pound area, including her parents plus brothers, sisters and cousins, attended the awards ceremony. Joanne Nowak said her daughter was the only lady at the head table, flanked by an impressive number of ranked Marines

Nowak currently is a Marine Sergeant, and a senior at Carroll University in Waukesha. In September, after she graduates from Carroll in August, she expects to become a Second Lieutenant. She has recently been selected for a flight contract and hopes to become a Marine Corps aviator.

Bierman said he was glad to have someone like Nowak as one of the very first women to serve the Marine Corps as a combat engineer. There are currently 1.4 million active Marines, and only 13,000 of them are females. He said as to honors, participation, and plans to expand the role of women in the military, “It’s not a gender thing, and it’s not an ethnic thing. It’s a Marine Corps officer thing. It’s a United States Marine thing.”

The journey that led to the Marine Corps for Nowak began when she was growing up in Pound, one of 12 children born to Thomas and Joanne Nowak.

Louise was in sixth grade when an uncle randomly asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. “A Marine,” she told him. She said that dream carried on and never went away. One of her sisters was in the Navy.

After her high school graduation in 2006, Nowak left for Marine Corps recruit training at Parris Island, S.C. She said stepping off that bus and having everyone yelling at her was a life changing moment, and admitted it was a bit frightening, but she went on to receive the Honor Graduate Award after completing basic training.

She then graduated with honors from infantry training, completed Military Occupational Specialty School training for combat engineering, and deployed for Iraq in August of 2007. During that deployment Nowak was a member of teams that went out and swept for mines and explosive devices. As a leader in the Lioness Program, her duties included tracking Iraqi women and children who may have been strapped with explosives.

A year later she applied for deployment in Afghanistan, and again served in leadership roles.

When her second deployment was complete, Nowak was assigned to Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 in Palms, Calif., and finished the last months of her four-year tour as an enlisted Marine as an instructor for Corporal’s Course training.

Novak then started college courses on-line, with the hopes of becoming a Marine Corps officer. After one semester she transferred to Carroll College, where she currently studies exercise science.

In 2012 Nowak was selected as an officer candidate, and was assigned to the Platoon Leaders Class (PLC) Program at Quantico, Va., and completed two back to back summers of Officers Candidate School.

In summer of 2012 she received the Gung-Ho Award as well as the Physical Fitness Award for India Co. In summer of 2013 she was the Honor Graduate from a class of 2012, which included only 39 females.

She also has received the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution Award and the Gung-Ho Award for Golf Company.

“I just feel like I have a gift and I need to go and use it,” Nowak stated at the ceremony. “I am very, very proud.”

She later told reporters that while women are becoming more accepted in many military roles, she has learned to accept that, “You are a female in a man’s world. You have to know that everybody’s watching because we’re so few.”

Joanne Nowak said her heart sank when she learned Louise had enlisted in the Marines. She already had a daughter in the Navy. She said her biggest fear was not that they would be injured in body, but in spirit. However, that fear has eased, and her daughters are fine. “Louise is so positive that I don’t think anything would bring her down!” the proud mother declared.


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