View Full Version : Women's place is in the Corps
08-26-04, 07:00 AM
Women's place is in the Corps
DAILY NEWS STAFF
Americans cheered this month when female Olympians competing in Greece won the gold medal for beach volleyball.
At New River Air Station on Wednesday, some of the world's other top women athletes fought for a chance to represent the Marine Corps in the military's upcoming interservice games. These women are leaders in today's Marine Corps - but it wasn't always that way.
Today is Women's Equality Day, established by Congress in 1971 to commemorate the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave women the right to vote. It's one of eight ethnic observations mandated annually by the Department of Defense. Commanders are compelled to acknowledge or celebrate each with some form of military function.
Officials at Camp Lejeune will hold a professional military education seminar at 11:30 a.m. at the Staff Noncommissioned Officer's Club. Guest speakers include retired Sgt. Maj. Mary Sabourin and base Headquarters and Support Battalion adjutant, 1st Lt. Cheryl A. Armstrong.
But how far have we come since Susan B. Anthony?
Eighty-four years after obtaining the right to vote, many women on many different levels still seek unconditional equality with their male counterparts. Some professionals have found it in classrooms, in boardrooms and on playing fields. Still others wonder whether they'll one day see it on the battlefield.
Doubtless, women's status within the military has risen over the years. Warming up before Wednesday's tryout, a handful of the Corps' softball elite contemplated the workplace dynamic among today's Marines.
"Initially, they see you as a girl, so you have to constantly prove yourself at every unit," said Gunnery Sgt. Gail Saylor, 37, a military police officer stationed at Miramar Air Station, Calif. She's been in the Corps for 18 years and believes the biggest challenge for fellow female troops is to get "the guys to see you as an equal."
There was a time when only men served on Navy ships, she noted. But that has changed, Saylor said, for the better.
"There are more deployment opportunities now," she said, recounting her own time spent board amphibious assault ships. "I didn't like ship food, but there were no problems billeting females. There weren't any problems when I went out."
Saylor's teammate, 42-year-old Gunnery Sgt. Eileen Grier, an aviation electronics supervisor stationed at Beaufort Air Station, S.C., has served aboard aircraft carriers.
"It has changed over the years," said Grier, a 19-year Marine Corps veteran. "It used to be - if there was a female in the office - they were always a secretary."
Two of the younger athletes have observed other day-to-day challenges.
"In the last unit, it was just me and 45 guys," said Lance Cpl. Ninya Ybarra, 24, a communications specialist assigned to Communications Company, 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune.
"They would step in and try to do things for me, but I had to tell them that I could do it."
"(It's difficult) being a (noncommissioned officer) when all the lance corporals are guys," said Cpl. Jamie Bailey, 21, an ordnance technician stationed at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan. She's been in two and a half years.
"I had to get them to respect me the same as the male NCOs."
Although the infantry is still primarily a man's world, today's global war on terrorism has blurred the frontlines and the roles that women play in combat.
"If you ask me if I think there will be women in an infantry battalion, I'd say no," Saylor said. "But we're all Marines and basic riflemen."
09-08-04, 02:41 PM
Women see roles evolve in Corps
Veteran, active Marines gather for convention
By Michael Stetz
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
September 8, 2004
When walking guard duty at Camp Pendleton, Dorothe Forres Irwin was armed with a nightstick and whistle. A gun was out of the question.
This was during World War II. Women Marines didn't handle ammo. "We were limited in what we could do," said Irwin, 81.
Today . .
Gunnery Sgt. Debra Fortune, 40, a current Marine, served in Iraq. She took part in the charge to Baghdad and survived an ambush.
"We were right there," she said of women serving. "We were as close as you can get."
At the biennial convention of the Women Marines Association being held this week in San Diego, there's no chomping on cigars, no scent of bad after-shave.
War stories come in a different pitch.
They are complete with patriotism and heroism, though. And the realization that a page in history may be turning.
More than 1,000 U.S. service personnel have now died in Iraq. Included in that number are 24 women.
That's more than the number of women who died in Korea or Vietnam, even though those conflicts lasted years longer.
With women making up nearly 15 percent of the Army, it's that branch that has suffered the most loss.
So far no Marine women have died in Iraq, though the branch has hardly been immune.
Marine Sgt. Jeannette Winters, 25, was the first U.S. servicewoman to die in the war against terrorism. A radio operator, she was among seven Marines killed when a refueling plane crashed in Pakistan in January 2002.
While women can't hold most combat jobs, they are now allowed to hold key support positions, which means they are routinely placed in or near combat zones. And roadside bombs and mortar blasts don't discriminate.
"Today, the battlefield is everywhere," said Fortune, who was among the 400-plus current or past Marines attending the convention, which closes today.
"We're not in the rear with the gear."
Most of the women interviewed at the convention didn't seem conflicted about the expanding role of women in the military or about the dangers women face. Most said the deaths of female service personnel are saddening, but not unexpected.
"Unfortunately, it comes with the territory," said Sgt. Major Shanda Elkins, 47, a current Marine. "I see them as casualties. Male or female, they are my Marines dying."
Elkins, a former drill instructor, is convinced women can do whatever it takes. Women Marines today handle guns. Their training is equal to that of men.
Still, it's difficult for some people to get comfortable with the idea of women in harm's way, Elkins said.
Even Elkins' mother has trouble understanding. According to Elkins, she calls when she hears of new deployments, saying: "Let the men go."
In previous wars, women rarely served in combat zones, and if they did, they did so as nurses. In Vietnam, for instance, most of the eight women who died were nurses.
But over the years, technology has made more jobs available to women. The modern military relies on computers and guns. And women can operate computers. Congress also has relaxed rules prohibiting women from serving on combat ships and planes.
Today, the Army has 73,000 women in its ranks, with an estimated 15,000 of them serving in Iraq.
The Marines are still male-dominated. Only about 10,000 women serve – or 6 percent of the Corps, which is the lowest percentage among the branches. Most Marine jobs are combat-related, making women eligible for only about 20 percent of the positions available.
Some of the women at the convention feel the military is slowly moving to an appropriate middle ground when it comes to women in uniform. For years, the roles were too limiting, some say.
Nobody – man or woman – is naturally prepared for combat, said the Rev. Beverly Short, 57, who had a long career in the Marines and served overseas during Operation Desert Storm.
"It's a function of training," Short said. "Women should be allowed to do what they are capable of doing."
The women say this: Military duty, regardless of its dangers, can be a life-changing experience for women.
They bond, just as men do.
Pat Hamilton, 74, and Aileen Burns-Maust, 72, met when they served in the Marines in 1952 at Pearl Harbor. They've been friends since.
It's not for everyone, they admit. "You have to be independent and strong," Hamilton said.
It was no small step for women then to tell their families they were going to join the Marines.
They were lured by many factors. Some wanted adventure. Some came from military families where service was expected. Others wanted out of depressing, tiny towns.
Ask male Marines why they joined and they give some of the same reasons.
The women say the pride that comes with being a Marine takes hold of them, as well.
"I married the Marines," said Grace Carle, 82, who served 31 years and once held the esteemed position of sergeant major of the Women Marines – the Corps' highest enlisted position. At times, it was not easy. Some male Marines resented the women.
"We worked doubly hard to have the right to be called Marine," she said.
That's why women should not be underestimated, even for combat, said Kris Koch, 63, who served in Vietnam: "If you can do the job, it doesn't matter the sex."
Michael Stetz: (619) 293-1720; firstname.lastname@example.org
DON KOHLBAUER / Union-Tribune
Jean Cuccinello (left), a former Marine Corps plane mechanic, touched the wings of Capt. Christine Rabaja at the Women Marines Association convention Monday.
09-10-04, 10:30 PM
Female Cammies To Arrive in January
Submitted by: Marine Corps Systems Command
Story Identification #: 2004910135741
Story by Ms. Shakinta Johnston
MARINE CORPS SYSTEMS COMMAND, Quantico, VA (Sep. 10, 2004) -- With the scheduled fielding of additional sizes of combat utility uniforms in Jan. 2005, female Marines will be able to buy uniforms specifically designed with the woman warrior in mind.
The Marine Corps has adopted six female-specific sized blouses and seven specific sized trousers. It’s expected that the new sizes will improve uniform fit and function for about 90 percent of the female Marine population who now wear the X-Small, X-Short; X-Small Short; Small Short; Small Regular; Medium X –Short; and Medium Short (Trousers only).
“The female cammies will appear identical to those in the existing inventory, and new sizes will be offered in addition to those already available,” said Dee Townes, combat uniform project officer, MCSC. While female Marines considering buying additional uniforms may want to wait until the new sizes are available, this announcement does not change the requirement that all Marines own one set of woodland and one set of desert digital cammies by Oct. 1.
According to Townes, Marine Corps Military Clothing Sales Stores will carry the new uniform when it becomes available. The care and cleaning label inside the chest and hip pockets will list the body measurements to predict the new size.
“Better fitting cammies for female Marines will definitely reduce the amount of excess material, especially for those with smaller figures,” said Cpl. Cavel Wallen, legal chief, for Headquarters and Service Battalion here. According to Wallen, who participated in surveys and testing, new cammies will be make a big difference when wearing field equipment such as the flak jacket, when extra material tends to bunch up.
Additional information about female sizes will appear in Marine Corps publications and on websites about 30 days prior to their availability in stores. For more information regarding female-specific sized camouflage utilities, contact Dee Townes at email@example.com
Soon, female Marines like Sgt. Amber Shipley, military police, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Camp Smith District, shown here wearing digital cammies, will have more choices when it comes to the fit of their uniform. Photo by: Official photo
09-12-04, 01:02 PM
Women Marines Assoc. gathers at depot, observes recruit training
Submitted by: MCRD San Diego
Story by: Computed Name: Sgt. Ryan Smith
Story Identification #: 200491018737
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif.(September 10, 2004) -- Members of the Women Marines Association stopped by the depot Sept. 3 to view recruit training and reminisce with Marines aboard the depot.
The Women Marines Association visited San Diego this week for its biennial convention and was welcomed to the depot for a brief tour, breakfast at Quarter's One and viewing of the graduation ceremony for Company F.
"I am very impressed with the Marines of today," said retired Sgt. Maj. Grace A. Carle. "They really look sharp and I am proud of them. I hope they continue to serve our Corps honorably."
Many depot Marines were on hand to share their experiences with association members.
"I felt it was very important to tell them what an active duty gunnery sergeant does and in general talk about the women of today's Marine Corps," said Gunnery Sgt. Joelle M. Fant, legal assistance chief, Staff Judge Advocate. "It was great to be able to talk to someone who paved the way for me and other women in the Marine Corps."
The association members were happy to share their experiences as well as talk about changes the Marine Corps has made affecting the lives of women in the Corps. In 1943, then Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Holcomb acknowledged that the Marine Corps could not accomplish its mission of winning the war without women helping to stave off the work load.
"They were very gutsy women," added Fant. "They were very articulate in recounting their experiences and their love of the Marine Corps. They made their presence felt. The whole 'free a man to fight' mentality allowed a lot of positions formerly filled by men to be taken over by women."
According to the Marine Corps Web site, since 1918, when Pvt. Opha Mae Johnson became the first woman to enlist in the Corps, many changes have taken place for women working within the ranks of the Marine Corps. During WWI, women enlisting in the Marines served in clerical positions or recruiting duties. During WWII, women Marines found themselves not only handling clerical duties, but also were mechanics, radio operators, mapmakers and welders. Today's female Marines can get close to the front lines of battle with positions as combat pilots and field supply clerks.
"Hearing their stories makes me want to stay in the Marine Corps and make an impact," said Fant. "They taught me to share my legacy about sacrifice and hookin' and jabbin' to get where I am with my younger Marines."
For more information on the Woman Marines Association, check out www.womenmarines.org.