The fewer, the proud: female Marines
Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan -- The month of March is designated as Women’s History Month where women are recognized for their accomplishments and progression in society nation-wide.
According to Department of Defense statistics, of the approximately 183,000 active duty Marines, only about 14,100 are women making up only about 7.7% of the Marine Corps.
Since 1918, when first female Marine, Pvt. Opha Mae Johnson enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve, the presence of females in the Marine Corps has been steadily evolving, according to Gunnery Sgt. Syndy Shelton, career planner for Marine Corps Installations Pacific, Marine Corps Base, Camp Butler-Japan.
“Being such a small percentage of the Marine Corps, I don’t focus on being the only female amongst a group of Marines,” said Shelton. “I think of it as, ‘I’m a gunnery sergeant of Marines, and I’m going to do the best that I can.’”
In December 2015, Ashton Carter, defense secretary announced that the Marine Corps would open combat arms positions to women for the first time. This announcement applies to all branches of armed services.
Following this announcement, the more than 230 enlisted female Marines who graduated the Marine Corps' Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force study, qualifying for various combat-related military occupational specialties were granted their earned MOS, per Marine Administrative Message 017/16.
In addition to physical standards, the Marine Corps is beginning to incorporate a standard unisex dress blue and service uniform Marine Corps-wide, according to Shelton.
The Marine Corps has already authorized the male campaign cover, the larger more formal hat for dress uniforms, into female uniform regulations.
“Society is changing and evolving.” said Shelton. “Female Marines long ago were maintained as women in (the Marine Corps), and now they aren’t necessarily taking us as women out of the institution, but they are moving us forward to uphold one kind of standard for the Marine Corps as a whole. We are all Marines. We wear the same uniform. We take care of one another.”