Emma Malonelord, an alumna of UC Davis, tells her story in a new animated series for the U.S. Army. (Courtesy of the U.S. Army)

Changing Direction

by | May 24, 2021 | Alumni Profiles, Culture

Emma Malonelord readily admits that she doesn’t look like the stereotypical Army soldier. At 5-foot-3, she danced ballet in school and was a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority at UC Davis.

“I am by no means somebody you would look at and say she’s killing the game in the military,” she said. “But I knew going in that I had more than enough brains to [pull it off].”

An animal science major at UC Davis, Malonelord was on her way to a career as a veterinarian. But halfway through college, she decided to change direction. In 2018, she enlisted in the U.S. Army.

“I wanted to prove some inner strength within myself,” said Malonelord, now a corporal. “I wanted a chance to break the mold that I was in.”

Now Malonelord is featured in “The Calling,” an animated marketing series from the Army that seeks to close a “relatability gap” between Gen Z and America’s largest military branch. The series spotlights five soldiers with diverse upbringings and life experiences. The Army conducted a worldwide search for stories that would resonate with young people.

In Malonelord’s episode, she narrates her own story. She was raised by two moms in Redlands, California. When she was 6, one of her mothers had an accident that left her temporarily paralyzed. With her family as her role models, she makes her way to UC Davis.

She also talks about stereotypes. And the film, she said, offered a chance to show a younger generation her unique background.

“There was never a point in my life where I came across somebody who had two moms or two dads,” Malonelord said. “So the coolest thing for me is knowing that now even if someone is just looking at the commercial, they get to see that representation that I didn’t have as a kid. That has been the most inspiring part of all this for me.”

Currently stationed in South Korea, Malonelord is an air defense enhanced early warning system operator, working the Patriot Missile Defense System. In fact, she stood out from the beginning, earning a perfect score on her exams in advanced individual training — the first soldier ever to do so, according to the Army.

Malonelord credited her time at UC Davis for her high marks.

“I think having enough college experience in my back pocket is a huge part of what helped me earn my 100 percent,” she said. “I knew what I needed to do.”

Next up, Malonelord is headed to a new station in Japan. She recently reenlisted for another four years with the Army.

“I requested to be overseas back-to-back because that travel aspect is really important to me,” she said. “I’m super excited for it.”