veteran

Army Women’s Corp veteran Marion Cherne served in West Berlin during the Cold War.

Gordon Jackson/The Brunswick News

Today’s veteran: Marion Cherne, 64

Born: Mt. Clemons, Mich.

Residence: St. Simons Island

Service: Women’s Army Corp, nearly three years

Duties: Supply clerk, mail clerk, clerk typist

Rank: Specialist 4

Recognitions: National Defense Service Medal; Army Occupation Medal

Duty stations: West Berlin; Fort Riley, Kan.; Fort Ord, Calif.; Fort McClellan, Ala.

Her story: Marion Cherne completed a year of college when she decided it was time to leave her hometown of Daytona Beach, Fla., and enlist in the military.

“It was a flash of insanity,” she said of the decision.

She met with an Air Force recruiter but decided not to join after she learned her vision wasn’t good enough to be an air traffic controller and she was too short to be work with the Military Police.

There were also restrictions for women in other branches of the military, and the year of college she completed did nothing to help her get a job she was seeking.

She ended up enlisting in the Army for three years, where she was trained to be a supply clerk.

Her first permanent duty station was in West Berlin, where most of the women she served with were linguists experts who spoke Russian, Polish or German. She lived on the fourth floor of a building with other women assigned to the company headquarters. They had an 11 p.m. curfew every night.

“It’s a place I never would have picked to go,” she said of Berlin.

One of the most frequent questions she was asked by the men she served with was “Why are you here?”

“When I got to Berlin, they didn’t know what to do with the women who weren’t Army nurses,” she said. “There was a different attitude about women in the military.”

The main responsibility of her company was to monitor communications of countries that were part of the Soviet bloc at the time.

When she first arrived in Germany, she and other new soldiers to the company toured East Berlin.

“We were not allowed to wear any insignia, rank or brass,” she said. “It was so different from West Berlin. There was nobody on the streets.”

They were not allowed to go into any of the shops and were instructed to ask for a Russian soldier if they were detained by local authorities.

Though Cherne said she didn’t feel threatened when she worked in West Berlin during the Cold War, her bosses constantly reminded her of the threat.

“The thing that frustrated me was the unannounced drills in the middle of the night,” she said. “We were surrounded by the Russian military. I felt pretty safe, all things considered.”

She had a high security clearance, which limited where she could travel off base, but she did manage to visit Holland, Brussels, Switzerland, Austria and Italy during her more than a year in Germany. She also married a fellow soldier while she was stationed there.

She was sent to Fort Riley, Kan. after her tour of duty in Berlin ended, and was assigned as an administrative assistant to a command sergeant major.

She was granted an early discharge when she became pregnant and decided she wanted focus on taking care of her child after it was born. Her husband completed his three-year commitment and got out of the Army about three months later.

Cherne returned to college and taught European history, world history, economics and government for 33 years. She is currently teaching government at College of Coastal Georgia, where she said her military experience helped her be a better teacher.

“It was helpful to have been in Europe after World War II and to see the life lessons of war,” she said. “My military experience helped.”

Our Veterans runs Wednesdays. Contact Gordon Jackson at

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