Shannon Ihrke feature

Shannon Ihrke – Brave, Beautiful, and Badass Marine

Photos by Thomas Prusso

Age—31
Hometown—Pine River, Minnesota
Instagram—@shannonihrke

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Tell me about growing up in Pine River?
I grew up in a really small town in Northern Minnesota. I was a total daddy’s girl. I was all about hunting, fishing, being outside, and camping. I’ve ridden horses since I was a little girl. I was always very athletic—I played basketball, soccer, and ran track.

Why did you decide to join the Marine Corps?
I spent two years at St. Cloud State, and I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do at that point. Then in 2008, the economy crashed, and I started doing the math. I went to my academic advisor, and she said that I wouldn’t qualify for grants, but she mentioned that the military helped pay for college. I looked at the different branches of the military, and in my head, I was thinking Air Force. The recruiter didn’t really take me seriously, but as I was leaving his office, the Marine recruiter was in the hallway. He asked if I was joining the Air Force, and I said no, and he said, ‘Well you’d probably never make it in the Marine Corps.’ He told me that the Marine Corps was the hardest branch and that I would have to learn martial arts and to shoot a rifle. Well, I grew up hunting with my dad, and I know how to shoot a rifle. So I signed up before I had time to think about it.

Tell me about your career in the Marines—what was your job and your highest rank?
I went to basic training at Parris Island in South Carolina. I loved boot camp. After I finished, I went to Marine combat training, and then I served as a legal analyst at Camp Johnson in North Carolina. Then I was stationed at the Air Station in Beaufort, South Carolina—I was there for two years. I picked up rank pretty quickly, so they promoted me to inspector instructor duty in Rock Island, Illinois. I served in the Marines for four years and left as a Sergeant E5.

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How would you describe your experience in the Marines?
As a woman, you obviously stand out, so you have to decide what you want to be known for. I had goals going in—I was going to be the baddest badass. I always made a point to do twice as much work—I would be in the office from sun up to sun down and work my butt off every day. I wanted to keep up with and do better than the guys. I wanted them to see, “I can keep up with you, I can do better than you, and watch me do it!” I loved it. I took it as a challenge to see how far I could push myself. The most rewarding thing was to be respected by them and be seen as one of them.

Why did you leave the Marines and what was your game plan after leaving?
When I was at Rock Island, I wanted to become a drill instructor and “make” Marines. But military funding was cut, so they wanted me to reenlist and stay there for four more years. A friend of mine in Chicago asked me to be in a charity runway show, and I said absolutely not! I had worked so hard to be seen as an equal in the Marines, but it was for charity, and he talked me into it. After the show, a photographer approached me and asked me to do a shoot with him. After the pictures from the shoot were posted, I started getting a lot of attention. My superiors gave me the ok to continue, and eventually, I was making more money modeling than in the Marine Corps, so I decided it was time to move on.

What is your proudest modeling moment?
The coolest thing was being on the cover of Maxim. A photographer I did a photo shoot with submitted my photo for the Hometown Hotties contest they used to do. I made the top 100, then the top 16, and finally the top 10. They flew me to Vegas for a week to shoot pictures. Then they called me back later and asked me to work on another issue. Five of us went to Mexico for pictures. They didn’t even tell me I was going to be on the cover. My friend called me from the airport to congratulate me and told me that I was on the cover. I went out and bought lots of copies.

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You have a baby girl. Tell me about your family.
Her name is Aryana River Young, and she was the best surprise ever. My boyfriend Jake and I knew each other in high school, and we ran into each other at a local gym and started dating. Then she came along. Mommyhood is the best thing ever!

What do you do when you’re not modeling or momming?
I’m obsessed with our chickens. I also train horses, and I give kids riding lessons.

You mentioned you used to hunt with your dad. Do you still hunt?
Yes. I went deer hunting this past season and shot my first doe. Growing up, I went grouse hunting and bear hunting. We also fish all the time. Jake loves to ice fish in the winter. We have a fish house that we pull out on the lake. We also go ice spearing. We probably go twice a week.

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What’s your favorite gun? Do you still shoot regularly?
When I was a Marine, my M16 rifle was my favorite! I love rifles, and I love to shoot! We have 23 acres so we set up targets and shoot often. Now I love my Ruger 450 Bushmaster.

What are your plans for the future?
I want to be at home as much as possible—do a little modern homesteading. I want to start breeding horses and get more involved in training them full time. I want to stay in Minnesota and continue building our ranch.

What role does social media play for you?
I use social media because I am a model, and it’s part of the job. I use it as a way to show how versatile I am. It’s a piece of my life—it’s not my life.