After completing her law degree at Roger Williams University, First Lieutenant Adrienne Serbaroli was looking for a nontraditional way to use her education. “As a Barnard woman, I was taught to be a leader in any field that I go into, and I wanted to serve the community by serving my country,” she says.
That goal led her to the Marine Corps, where for nearly four years she has served as a Judge Advocate, assembling, preparing and litigating cases, and advising Marines on legal issues. “I’m like Kevin Bacon in A Few Good Men,” she laughs. “The Marine Corps appealed to me because, unlike most lawyers in the other branches, whose only military training is a five-week course for professionals, Marine Corps lawyers have to go through all the training that other Marines do,” says Serbaroli, 31, who is based at the Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia. “I went through basic training, then six months of combat training to learn tactics and leadership skills. I can do anything that any other officer in the Marine Corps does, like lead a convoy or take supplies to the front line. I’m an officer first and a lawyer second.” Serbaroli is contracted to serve for another year and a half, and anticipates a deployment to Afghanistan in the coming months. “I could be doing any number of things while I’m there, like advising commanders about the rules of engagement or doing operational law, which refers to the legalities of military operations in different countries,” she says.
Although Serbaroli hasn’t yet served overseas, she has encountered culture shock in the service. “Before I was commissioned, I didn’t know anyone in the Marine Corps.... I had no idea what to expect,” she says. “People here tend to be much more traditional and conforming than the Barnard community, which has been a major adjustment for me.” But she believes it’s important for people to challenge themselves: “It’s been difficult, both physically and mentally, learning how to push my limits,” says Serbaroli. “That’s what makes the world a better place.”
- Kathryn Hawkins
- photograph by Noah Sheldon