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Sisters in Arms

Serving in Iraq as majors and later promoted to lieutenant colonels, Sinlan Morrow (center) led a team of Army engineers who helped rebuild Iraq's infrastructure. Photo courtesy of Sinlan Morrow

Serving in Iraq as major and later promoted to lieutenant colonel, Sinlan Morrow (center) led a team of Army engineers who helped rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure. Photo courtesy of Sinlan Morrow

Lieutenant colonel Marie Pauley, with members of the visiting band Brokedown Cadillac, was a senior director of transportation logistics.

Lt. Col. Marie Pauley, with members of the visiting band Brokedown Cadillac, was a senior director of transportation logistics. Photo courtesy of Marie Pauley

Serving in the military is an honorable duty, but one that has posed challenges for women seeking respect, opportunities and promotions.

Now, two 1994 CSULB Army ROTC graduates who have risen to the rank of lieutenant colonel recall a decades-long bond between their families as they persevered to prove themselves as capable military women in the fields of engineering and logistics, serving around the globe including in combat areas.

Sinlan Ripley Morrow hung up her silver oak leaf insignias as the Army’s engineering doctrine chief on Nov. 1, while Marie Pauley continues serving as a transportation officer.

The daughter of a Vietnamese mother and U.S. Navy father, Morrow arrived in Orange County at age five and eventually joined the Army Reserve, serving in the Persian Gulf War in 1991. The community college transfer student came to Cal State Long Beach as a civil engineering major with the goal of becoming an Army engineering officer.

Through ROTC, the two women became friends. Pauley earned the national George C. Marshall Award for outstanding cadets before joining the Army Transportation Corps, while Ripley entered the Army Corps of Engineers.

Pauley credits CSULB ROTC for giving her the leadership and coping skills to handle whatever came her way, including duty in combat zones. One of her most significant recent assignments was as one of three directors of transportation operations overseeing the safe and orderly withdrawal of American troops and equipment from Iraq.

Early in her career, Morrow became the first female engineer assigned to work with Navy engineers in arranging multinational exercises with foreign forces and later was one of the first female engineering officers to lead a team that built a variety of community infrastructure projects to help Iraqi civilians. In her last assignment, she was the first senior female engineer to represent U.S. Army engineers during NATO engineer summits.

“Marie and I have been friends for 20 years, and along the way, I’ve run into several of the ROTC students from that time,” Morrow said. Both met their current husbands in the Army and like so many military families, they depend on family, friends and community support groups especially when either the women or their husbands were deployed away from home.

Morrow and Pauley have been through thick and thin, “But one thing through it all is that we support each other,” Morrow said. “We’re sisters in arms and we lean on each other. If something happens to me and I need to talk to her, most of the time she’s been through it, too.”