60 Years of Service - Women in the Corps
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  1. #1

    Cool 60 Years of Service - Women in the Corps

    Women Marines - Dedicated to Corps and Country

    60 Years of Service - Women in the Corps

    'Free a man to fight!' This was the call for women to serve in the Marine Corps Reserve during two world wars. Feb. 13, 2003, marks the 60th anniversary of the Marine Corps Women's Reserve. Although 305 women served in the Marine Corps Reserve during World War I, all were separated from service by June 30, 1919 after the war ended. It wasn't until Feb. 13, 1943, that Gen. Thomas Holcomb, the 17th Commandant of the Marine Corps, announced the formation of the Marine Corps Women's Reserve.
    In 1917, countless young men volunteered for the Armed Forces, and for the first time in U.S. history, the labor potential of women became important. Pioneers like Pvt. Opha Mae Johnson, the first woman to enlist in the Marine Corps Reserve Aug. 13, 1918, paved the way for women in the Marine Corps today. During World War I, most of these women Marines, referred to as Marinettes, freed male Marines from clerical billets at Headquarters Marine Corps, enabling them to fight in France. Others filled jobs at recruiting stations across the country. Although women still didn't have the right to vote, they were willing and able to serve their country.

    Twenty-five years later, the country was embroiled in another world war and women again answered the call to serve. More than 22,000 officer and enlisted women joined the Corps during World War II as part of the Women's Reserve. Women Marines in this war performed more than 200 military assignments. In addition to clerical work, they also filled positions as parachute riggers, mechanics, radio operators, mapmakers, and welders. By June 1944, women reservists made up 85 percent of the enlisted personnel on duty at Headquarters Marine Corps and almost two-thirds of the personnel manning all major posts and stations in the United States and Hawaii. At the war's end, Gen. Alexander A. Vandegrift, 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps, credited these women with "putting the 6th Marine Division in the field."

    Following Japan's surrender, demobilization of the Women's Reserve proceeded rapidly, with only 1,000 remaining in the reserve by July 1946. Then Congress passed the Women's Armed Services Integration Act, which authorized the acceptance of women into the regular component of the Marine Corps and other Armed Services.

    For the first time in history, the Women's Reserve was mobilized in August 1950 for the Korean War, reaching peak strength of 2,787 active-duty women Marines. Again, they stepped into stateside jobs and freed male Marines for combat duty. By the height of the Vietnam War, about 2,700 hundred active-duty women Marines served stateside and overseas. During this period, the Marine Corps began opening career-type formal training programs to women officers and advanced technical training to enlisted women. It was also during the 1970s that women Marines were assigned to Fleet Marine Force units for the first time. By 1975, women could be assigned to all occupational fields except infantry, artillery, armor and pilot/air crew.

    The 1990s saw additional changes and increased responsibilities for women in the Marine Corps, including flying combat aircraft. Approximately 1,000 women Marines were deployed to Southwest Asia for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990-1991. Women have served in every rank from private to lieutenant general.

    Milestones for women in the Marine Corps include:

    Col. Margerat A. Brewer's appointment to brigadier general in 1978 made her the Corps' first woman general officer.
    Col. Gail M. Reals was the first woman to be selected by a board of general officers for advancement to the rank of brigadier genera in 1985.
    Brig. Gen. Carol A. Mutter became the first woman to assume command of a Fleet Marine Force unit at the flag level when she assumed command of the 3rd Force Service Support Group in Okinawa in 1992.
    2nd Lt. Sarah Deal became the first woman Marine selected for Naval aviation training in 1993.
    In 1994, Brig. Gen Mutter became the first woman major general in the Corps and the senior woman on active duty in the Armed Forces.
    Lt. Gen. Mutter made history again when she became the first woman Marine to wear three stars in 1996.
    Today, women serve in 93 percent of all occupational fields and 62 percent of all billets. Women constitute 6.2 percent of the Corps end strength and are an integral part of the Marine Corps.
    This, the 60th anniversary of continuous active service of women in the Marine Corps, is a significant part of the Corps' history and today's female Marines carry on that heritage.



  2. #2
    Women warriors 100 percent Marine
    Submitted by: MCAS Iwakuni
    Story Identification Number: 20023613514
    Story by Cpl. Joe Lindsay

    MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan(March 1, 2002) -- Editors Note: March is Women's History Month, a time designated to honor and celebrate the contributions of women to our nation. Since 1918, women have claimed the title United States Marine, and have played significant roles throughout our Corps' history. As in the past, women are continuing to demonstrate their ability to meet any challenges that come their way, and are helping to shape the future of the Marine Corps.

    The role of women in the Marine Corps all began on August 13, 1918, when Opha Mae Johnson enlisted as a private.

    Since that time, the role of women in the Marine Corps has continued to grow, and they now serve alongside men in 93 percent of all occupational fields.

    There was a time though, when many probably felt that would never happen.

    Following Johnson into the Marine Corps were 304 other women, who served as reservists under the World War I recruiting campaign of "Free a Marine to fight."

    These women were not referred to as Marines, but rather as "Marinettes," and they did not attend boot camp.

    All Marinettes served in clerical capacities, and less than a year after joining, though they had served with distinction, all women were discharged from the Corps.

    It wasn't until November 1942 that women were once again permitted to join the Marines.

    The first enlisted class of 722 women completed training at Hunter College, N.Y. on April 25, 1943, and the first officer class of 75 women finished their training at Mount Holyoke College, Mass., on May 11, 1943.

    Women have continuously served with the Marine Corps since then, and they have definitely come a long way since the early days when only clerical jobs were open to them.

    In the Vietnam War, women Marines served in combat zones for the first time, and in the 1970s women Marines were assigned to Fleet Marine Force units for the first time.

    The 1990s brought even more responsibilities and changes for women Marines, including the flying of combat aircraft.

    Approximately 1,000 women Marines served in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm, which saw Brigadier Gen. Carol Mutter become the first woman of any service to take command of a major operationally deployable unit.

    Mutter later went on to become the first woman Marine lieutenant general in 1996.

    Today women Marines undergo the same training as their male counterparts at boot camp, and make up over five percent of all active duty enlisted personnel and over four percent of all Marine officers.

    Women are no longer referred to as Marinettes, and though 93 percent of all occupational fields are open to them, women are definitely 100 percent Marine.



  3. #3
    Pioneer Went West to Serve
    by Lance Cpl. Jenn Steimer
    Marine Corps News
    February 7, 2003

    MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- In wartime past, when everyone saved the grease from their cooking and bought war bonds in support of their fighting boys, Vera G. Nelson, a trailblazing, 23-year-old, was among the first women Marines to serve.

    She entered in 1943, greeted by disapproving drill instructors, and was forced out less than three years later but not before sailing through the rank structure and helping to open now-closed Marine Corps Air Station El Toro.

    Women in the Marine Corps was a brand-new concept midway through World War II. She became a pioneer after she noticed a war poster that appealed to her sense of patriotism. It featured a woman and the quote, "Be a Marine, free a Marine to fight," and she thought to herself, "I can free two."

    She then located the nearest recruiting station and found out what it took.

    "Even then, I knew the Marine Corps was the best," said Nelson, now 83 and a resident of Oceanside. "I could have walked into the Army recruiting office, signed my name on a piece of paper and been accepted. It was almost the same way with the Navy, too. With the Marine Corps, I had to take an exam that lasted most of the day. I didn't want anything that was too easy."

    So, in 1943, the first year the Corps was open to women, she hopped on a train near her hometown of Garland, Texas, and headed to Camp Lejuene, N.C., with only a small overnight bag in her hand.

    Upon arriving at the training camp, the group of females traveling with Nelson, some carrying suitcases and wearing heels, were met by a "rude Pfc. who called 'fall out!'" Nelson said.

    "We then had to walk with our belongings down (a gravel road beside train tracks). Some of the girls complained about having to walk too far," she said.

    Her platoon of 28 women underwent seven weeks of training, which consisted of various classes and long hours of drill. They didn't train with rifles, but they did don gas masks and brave the gas chamber.

    Drill instructors were male and "didn't want to be there (training women)," Nelson said.

    I remember a time when we were drilling and one of the girls fainted, she said. Our drill instructor had us drill around her until she came around. When she did, he called 'fall in, and she formed back up with us and kept drilling," Nelson said.

    Upon graduating from basic training, Nelson became ill and was sent to Cherry Point for treatment.

    "After I was well again, I became homesick and restless for my orders," she said. "I just decided one day I would talk to the personnel officer and ask for orders."

    She didn't have orders, and the personnel sergeant sent her away. She went out and waited until the sergeant left.

    "After she was gone, I walked back in and knocked on the officer's door," she said. "She had me come in, and I stood at attention until she asked me what I wanted.

    "I told her if she stationed me where I wanted to be, I would be the best Marine there was. After she looked at me like I had two heads, she called for my qualifications sheet and found a job for me under a colonel in (Naval Air Station) North Island.

    "She told me to pack my bags and I was gone by 15-hundred (hours) that afternoon. I was so green at the time, I didn't realize what a miracle that was."

    Nelson took a train from North Carolina to North Island, where she was one of only 10 female service members. Making $50 a month as a private first class, Nelson quickly picked up rank as she became more efficient in her job. Within three years, she went from private to technical sergeant - the equivalent of a gunnery sergeant - and her pay topped out at $114 a month.

    Like most women in her time, she worked mainly in administration.

    In those days, even as an E-7, Nelson and her fellow service members weren't allowed to wear civilian clothes, even during liberty.

    "For liberty around San Diego, there were thousands of service members in uniform. It was such a patriotic time," Nelson said.

    But times were strict. One girl became pregnant and was sent home. The attitude was that Marines couldn't serve properly while pregnant and with child, Nelson said.

    Much like today, going to Tijuana and getting drunk was taboo.

    "We had a technical sergeant who was called in front of a formed platoon and stripped of her rank and sent home because she went to Tijuana, got drunk and got picked up by the military police," Nelson said.

    By June 1945, Nelson had more than 600 women under her command. Among her duties - preparing the barracks and the mess hall for incoming women at newly opened Marine Corps Air Station El Toro.

    Their job was to take the planes ferried in from the Pacific war, repair them, and ferry them back out to the war, she said.

    Shortly thereafter, the war was over. Nelson, along with most of the other women Marines, was sent home.

    "They didn't need us anymore," Nelson said.

    She stayed in the area and married a Marine. They were together 50 years and had a daughter. When he died, she remarried.

    Despite being told to leave, she harbors no ill will. She says she never regretted her time in the Corps.

    "I loved being in the Marine Corps. I would have stayed in if I could," she said. "I'll never grow out of being proud to say I am a Marine."



  4. #4
    Marine fights for first on Okinawa
    Submitted by: MCB Camp Butler
    Story Identification Number: 2002563428
    Story by Cpl. Krystal N. Leach

    MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP COURTNEY, Okinawa(April 19, 2002) -- "In order to lead from the front, you got to get some first," according to one Marine's perspective.

    This type of motivation pours from the mouth of a female Marine, who graduated April 12 as the first enlisted female on Okinawa in the Black Belt Instructor Trainer Course, part of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor Trainer Course.

    The course produces Marines qualified to teach other Marines to become instructors in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.
    According to Sgt. Tarra R. Gundrum, motor transport operator, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, attempting to complete the intense program is all part of a days work as a leader of Marines.

    "It's my job as a leader to get this training and give it back to Marines by encouraging them to do the same." Gundrum said.

    Setting the example is a familiar concept for Gundrum, as she has already received meritorious corporal and sergeant within her first three years in the Marine Corps.

    The course consists of revisiting tan, green and brown belt techniques, and then moving on to black belt training. Hours of kicking, blocking and punching mixed with weapons, warrior cultures, sexual harassment, leadership, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and nutrition training are all mandatory elements of the curriculum.

    "All of these portions are covered as part of the process in building a well rounded Marine," Gundrum spoke of the nutrition and CPR requirements. "You have to know these things in order to teach Marines how to take care of themselves."

    The students not only learn advanced hand-to-hand combat, ground fighting and bayonet training, but they also learn to engage these techniques in adverse conditions.

    "We train in the field and train in low light visibility situations, as well as learning to successfully apply fighting techniques in the water," Gundrum said. "We are trained to apply techniques in all elements which simulate real combat environments."

    The students are not only trained to be physically tough, but their minds are expected to be just as strong.

    The students study some of the history behind certain fighting techniques. Apache and Okinawa warrior cultures are two of the techniques studied.

    According to Gundrum, when the body is tired, the students must have enough mental stamina to complete certain obstacles in the course.

    "After running five times through the infamous obstacle course, we are expected to be able to apply the fighting techniques," Gundrum explained.

    With the saying, "Eight-hour movement, 20-second fight," Lt. Col. George H. Bristol, director of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program believes Marines, male or female, should train to have enough stamina to fight and conquer the enemy in a matter of seconds even after hours of ground movement.

    "This training is one of the few aspects of Marine Corps culture where training is the same for both male and female," Bristol stated.

    Regardless of gender, a Marine who attempts the instructor trainer course must be able to complete these rigorous combat simulations.

    Despite being the only female in the class, "Gundrum is one of the most capable students in the class," Bristol confessed.
    Gundrum's next venture in the Marine Corps is at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island's drill field.



  5. #5


    E.M. Friend (later Corbin) Boot Camp graduation 1953.

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  6. #6
    Thanks Sophie for sharing..........

    Female Marines
    proud of service
    Group gathering today
    to mark anniversary

    Brad McElhinny
    Daily Mail staff

    Donna Triplett raised six boys, but she was the only Marine in the house.

    " ‘Mom thinks she's still a drill sergeant.' That's what I heard all the time," said Triplett, an 81-year-old South Hills resident who served during World War II.

    She isn't alone. The Women Marines, who describe themselves as "The Fewer, The Prouder," are celebrating their 60th anniversary this weekend.

    The Women Marines say they aren't as tough as they sound. But they share a few traits in common. For many, the Marine Corps was a path to self-confidence. It was an outlet for patriotism. And for a few, the Marines was where they met husbands.

    "I'm glad I did it," Triplett said. "It was a great experience. I'm proud that I was in the Marines."

    The Women Marines chapter in West Virginia was celebrating the 60th anniversary of the organization with a luncheon today in Parkersburg.

    The chapter invited several outside dignitaries to honor the institution. More than 20 women are involved in the state organization.

    "We wanted to invite people so they'll learn about us," said Dottie Alderman, a Korean War veteran who founded the state chapter of Women Marines. "We want people to know West Virginia has had a lot of women who have served their country."

    The Marine Corps established a branch for women during World War II. Roughly 1,000 officers and 18,000 enlisted women served, according to the Marines.

    Under the slogan "Free a Man to Fight," the women generally were placed in office jobs at United States military bases so men could participate in combat.

    "During boot camp, they kept telling you you're first a lady and then a Marine," said Alderman, a South Charleston resident.

    During World War II, Triplett was a St. Louis resident working as a clerk for a bookkeeping company when she decided to enlist. She went to boot camp, moved on to non-commissioned officer school and then became a drill instructor.

    There, she met Bill Triplett, a Boone County native who was also a drill instructor.

    "We got married. We got married at Camp Lejeune. One of the officers above me gave me away," she said.

    "The end of the story is, I got pregnant."

    At the time, rules called for her to leave the Marines. She kept her pregnancy a secret for a while. Then it became impossible to hide.

    "I fainted on a drill field one day," Triplett said. "So I got discharged then."

    Triplett liked the Marines so much, she now wishes she'd been able to remain. But she and her husband moved back to West Virginia, and she's been here ever since.

    Eleanora Wylie, another Marine veteran, enlisted in 1943.

    "Our country was threatened in Pearl Harbor. People were patriotic. I decided I wanted to do my part for my country," said Wylie, a 79-year-old Kanawha City resident.

    She went to boot camp and then went to work for the Judge Advocate General's Office, working as a secretary and court reporter.

    During her time in the service, Wylie met Charles Gibbs, who was also a West Virginia native.

    Eventually, the two were married. They first met in boot camp.

    "After we graduated from boot camp, each company would give a dance," she said. "So we marched in formation to the dance. I asked one of the MPs if he knew anybody from West Virginia."

    "Where in West Virginia?" the MP asked.

    "I don't care," Wylie responded. "I just want to hear somebody with a West Virginia accent."

    So the MP introduced her to Gibbs, "and that was it."

    Wylie said she's proud to tell people about her experience in the Marines.

    She said the Women Marines organization provides that opportunity.

    "Unless there's someone in the family that's been involved, they don't hear very much about it," she said.

    The women who served during World War II helped open doors for women now serving in the military. By the 1990s, more than 1,000 women Marines were deployed to Southeast Asia for Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

    Some of them were flying combat aircraft.

    "Those ladies back in World War II were the ones who helped pave the way for me," said Alderman, the Korean War veteran who organized the state Women Marines chapter. "I have a great admiration for them."

    Writer Brad McElhinny can be reached at 348-4872.

    © Copyright 2003 Charleston Daily Mail



  7. #7
    Marine Corps celebrates women Marines' contributions
    Submitted by: Headquarters Marine Corps
    Story Identification Number: 200322511549
    Story by Staff Sgt. Cindy Fisher

    ARLINGTON, Va.(Feb. 21, 2003) -- Gen. Michael W. Hagee, the 33rd Commandant of the Marine Corps, hosted a ceremony Feb. 21 to recognize the contributions women have made in the Corps.

    The ceremony, held at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery, marked the 60th anniversary of continuous service by women Marines. Although 305 women served in the Marine Corps during World War I, all were separated from service by June 30, 1919. The Marine Corps Women's Reserve wasn't established until Feb. 13, 1943, during World War II.

    The Marine Corps has come a long way from those early days when women first served in the Corps, Gen. Hagee said. "The Marine Corps as it is today came from the 1918 battle of Bellue Wood, that is where we proved our war fighting capabilities. The same year, Ohpa Mae (Johnson) enlisted in the Marine Corps. All she wanted to do was serve her country. And she did even though her country didn't allow her to vote and the Marine Corps would only assign her clerical duties. The Marine Corps has come a long way since then."

    Norris Dolvin Deem, who served in the Corps from 1944-47, understands wanting to serve your country. "I have always been very patriotic. When the country went to war, I had to ask myself, 'What can I do to help the war effort?' I couldn't go out and fight, but I could join the Marine Corps and support the war effort by doing my very best."

    Deem, who reached the rank of sergeant before she left the service, became the poster Marine for women recruiting. The poster bearing her likeness urged women to enlist in the Marine Corps Women's Reserve because "There's a place for you."

    As part of the ceremony, Deem's presented one of the original recruiting posters to Gen. Hagee. "My greatest honor is that with this poster, I am part the Marine Corps history," she said.

    The audience was filled with other women who proudly remember their contributions to the history of women in the Corps. Women Marines from World War II to today were present to honor their legacy.

    Retired Lt. Col. Mary League recalls when she joined the Corps in 1960, women weren't allowed to be Marines and mothers. By the time she retired in 1985, she had helped change that policy, she said. "To me that is one of the biggest changes. Women are now able to have children while on active duty and stay in the Corps."

    In the audience was one of the beneficiary's of that change. Brig. Gen. Mary Ann Krusa-Dossin is the most recent woman to reach the rank of brigadier general and also the first mother to wear stars in the Marine Corps.

    Another pioneer present was retired Lt. Col. Rhonda Lebrescu. When she enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1976, women didn't even fire weapons. "When I went to boot camp at Parris Island, it was very much into etiquette. We had classes on how to do your hair and make up."

    Before she became a commissioned officer, Lebrescu was the first enlisted woman Marine to attend the Defense Language Institute in Monterrey, Calif. "And I went there to study one of the hardest languages to learn, Chinese Mandarin," she said.

    After she was commissioned, she made another first for women Marines. "I was the first, and the only, female Marine attaché. I was an attaché at the Hong Kong consulate from 86 to 88," she said.

    One of the speakers was another of the trailblazers for women. Retired Lt. Gen. Carol A. Mutter, now president of the Women Marines Association, joined the Marine Corps officer ranks in 1967. This was the same year Congress raised the ceiling on promotions for women, clearing the way for their consideration as general officers. Lt. Gen. Mutter's career is filled with firsts. As a brigadier general in 1992, she was the first woman to assume command of a Fleet Marine Force unit at the flag level when she assumed command of the 3rd Force Service Support Group. In 1994, she became the first woman major general in the Corps and the senior woman on active duty in the Armed Forces. She went on to become the first woman Marine to wear three stars in 1996.

    Gen. Hagee acknowledged the courage of women in the Corps. "I salute them. Anytime you are the first and a minority, it takes a special courage and honor ... to blaze that trail."

    Truly, in the years since women first entered the Corps, their roles have changed from the clerical work they were limited to in World War I. Women can now serve in 93 percent of all occupational fields and 62 percent of all billets.

    "Revolution, not evolution, is truly applicable for women in the Corps. Today, women are forward deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Today, (women) raise their hand to serve-not to free a man to fight-but to serve beside them," said Maj. Gen. Frances C. Wilson, the senior active-duty woman in the Marine Corps.

    The commandant remarked on his recent tour of the Central Command area of responsibility where he visited forward deployed Marines in Bahrain, Kuwait and Afghanistan. "There were women Marines at every single location and no one noticed because they were Marines. They were qualified. They were doing their jobs and they were Marines," Gen Hagee said.

    In today's Marine Corps, "if a Marine is qualified, regardless of gender, if she has the MOS and qualifications, then she is going," he said.

    Those women who dared to be first carved the path female Marines now walk. The opportunity to meet some of those who came before is an experience one of today's Marines will never forget. "It was awesome. I liked it that some many females that served in different eras were here. It's good to know they are still supporting the Marine of today," said Cpl. Lisa Bethke, a 22-year-old Minnesota native with Marine Barracks 8th and I.

    The ceremony and the opportunity to mingle with the past and present of women on the Corps was a fitting tribute, said Lebrescu. "It was motivating to me. Just listening to the speakers got me charged up."

    The concept "once a Marine, always Marine" holds just as true for female Marines as it does for their male counterparts, said Lt. Gen. Mutter. "We honor our history and we celebrate those who are continuing our legacy. Women in the Marine Corps today, will continue to be a significant contributor to all that goes on."

    Norris Deem Zabriskie presented an original reenlistment print to Gen. Michael W. Hagee, the 33rd Commandant of the Marine Corps, during the Feb. 21 ceremony at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Zabriskie, who served from 1944-47, became the Marine Corps Cover girl from 1945-46. Zabriskie clearly remembers the day then commandant, Gen. Alexander A. Vandegrift, told her she had been selected for the recruiting poster. "He told me, 'What you portray is what we want in women Marines. The Semper Fi of the Marines is in your face.'"
    Photo by: Staff Sgt. Cindy Fisher

    Sgt. Leah Cobble, a 24-year-old from Penhook with Marine Barracks 8th and I, waits in the Hall of Honor at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. She participated in the wreath laying with the Commandant of the Marine Corps that started the Feb. 21 ceremony celebrating the service of women in the Marine Corps.
    Photo by: Staff Sgt. Cindy Fisher



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