Story by Keith Hayes on 08/08/2019Corporal Ashtyn Hammer is one of the newest members of an exclusive group in the Marine Corps: The last remaining Mounted Color Guard headquartered at Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, California.
Hammer arrived aboard MCLBB in late June from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, where she had been assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.
"I was an avionics technician working on Hueys (UH-1Y Venom) and Cobras (AH-1Z Viper) attack helicopters with '369 when I first started applying to be assigned to the Mounted Color Guard," Hammer said.
Thanks to the main function of the MCG as a recruitment tool for the Marine Corps, Hammer first heard about them when she was a civilian.
"I saw them at the Colorado Professional Rodeo Association Finals in Grand Junction a few years ago and I thought that was the coolest thing ever," she explained. "Once I joined the Marine Corps I remembered the MCG and was determined to become a member. I just kept calling people trying to get here until they just accepted me."
While it is not unusual for Marines assigned to the MCG to come from a diverse background of Military Occupational Specialties, it is unusual for them to have horse riding experience. Usually, they have to be taught how to ride. That goes for privates all the way up to the colonels who serve as commanding officers of MCLBB.
Such is not the case with Hammer.
"I grew up on horseback, basically. I sat on a horse before I could sit up," she said. "My dad's a horse trainer. My dad and grandmother have been in rodeos doing barrel racing and team roping."
Hammer said she also got her Colorado Professional Rodeo Association card right out of high school and has numerous awards for her barrel racing skills.
The native of Fruita, Colo., said she originally attended college to become a math teacher.
"I still want to be a math teacher but there's quite a bit of politics in teaching these days and I'm not sure I want to follow suit," Hammer said.
She also has hobbies besides horseback riding and barrel racing.
"I like to dance. I have been dancing since I was little. I was on a competitive dance team up until high school when I became a part of the Varsity Poms team. I like the two-step, line dancing and swing. I was also big into ballet for a long time," Hammer said.
"I'm really big into learning leadership skills, so any leadership conference that comes up I try and go. I was also a member and officer of the Future Farmers of America," she said.
As with most other Marines, Hammer said she was surprised to find that there was a Marine Base in Barstow. "I've driven by a few times, but I didn't know it was a Marine base until I joined the Marine Corps."
Now that she's stationed at MCLB Barstow, she wants to make people more aware of the last Mounted Color Guard in the Corps. "I just want to help broaden the MCG's horizon, get it more known," she said. "I think the MCG has a lot more potential than what it's being used for."
"I think that a lot of people don't know about it," Hammer explained. "The Air Wing I was assigned to had no idea that the Mounted Color Guard even existed when I started looking in to getting over here."
Making a career of the Marines is something she might consider, but her love of competitive riding is at war with that.
"I want to rodeo again professionally, hopefully, but that's really hard to do in the Marine Corps and being stationed in one spot," she said.
Hammer said there are still challenges for her as a woman in the Marine Corps, but she also likes the team aspect of the Corps.
"I like the camaraderie and the networking of the Corps. I love meeting new people and making connections; that's one of my biggest things. I think this world is more who you know than what you know, so building connections is one of the coolest things I can do," she said.