CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
During the War of 1812 Lucy Brewer became the first woman to unofficially serve in the Marine Corps. Disguised as a man, she was able to serve on the Marine detachment aboard the USS Constitution.
More than a century later on August 12, 1918, the secretary of the Navy granted authority to enroll women for clerical duty in the Marine Corps Reserves. The very next day Opha M. Johnson enlisted and officially became the first woman to serve as a Marine.
Today, women don’t have to dress up as men to serve in the Corps and are able to occupy fill all non-combat arms military occupation specialties.
In honor of how far America’s 9-1-1 force in readiness has come, a service was held as a tribute to women Marines at the French Creek Chapel aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., in observance of Women’s History Month, March 22.
During the service, Lt. Col. Susan Seaman, the commanding officer of Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, along with three other female Marines, shared their stories and experiences as they reflected on their time in the service.
“Women’s History Month is not a time of celebration,” Seaman said. “It is a time to spread the knowledge of the history of female Marines in the Marine Corps.”
In each of the female Marines’ reflections they shared their motives for joining, hardships they endured, and ways they overcame obstacles created simply because of their gender.
“When I first came into the Corps, I was sent to Japan where females lived in a squad bay behind a barbed-wire fence, with a red line painted on the ground that read ‘no males beyond this point’,” said Sgt. Maj. Lisa Nilsson, the sergeant major of 2nd Supply Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group. “That was my first impression of the Marine Corps and boy have we come a long way.”
Nilsson continued telling the audience, filled with mostly female Marines, about her experiences and how she coped with difficult times.
“The days that I am struggling, I always look down at my left breast pocket and see that it says U.S. Marine, not male and not female,” said Nilsson. “My advice to any female Marine is to never forget who you are. It’s nice to go home and let your hair down and be a woman, but when you put that uniform on, you are a Marine.”
The motivational messages were directed towards the female Marines who filled the pews of the church that morning. Each of them left with smiles on their faces and pride in their eyes, enlightened of what it means to be a female serving in today’s Marine Corps.
“As you look now on what women Marines have done you see drastic changes,” said Col. Craig Crenshaw, the commanding officer of CLR-25. “Women Marines have been part of combat deployments and have served right alongside their male counterparts. Women Marines have played a huge role in the success of our Corps.”