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U.S. Marines visit Opha May Johnson’s burial site as part of a professional development event at Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, D.C. on Aug. 13.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Fatima Villatoro

Marines Celebrate 102-year Legacy of Women in the Marine Corps with trip to D.C.

27 Aug 2020 | Lance Cpl. Fatima Villatoro 2nd Marine Logistics Group

It is no secret women make up a small percentage of the total force of the Marine Corps – roughly 8%.

World War I introduced the first 305 women to enlist into the Marines. Today, 16,000 serve on active duty and are able to work in all combat related occupational specialties. For the current generation, it is important to understand the history of who served before them in order to keep moving the legacy forward.

A group of 16 Marines, all women, with Ammunition Company, 2nd Supply Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, travelled to the National Capital Region for a two-day professional development trip in August in honor of the 102-year anniversary of Johnson’s historic enlistment, which marked the start of women’s legacy in the Corps.

Cpl. Kaylynn Kalama and Cpl. Rosalinda Hernandez, both noncommissioned officers with Ammunition Co., were the driving force behind making the trip happen.

“This trip was essential for us because we needed to see that there are Marines, especially women, in high leadership positions who are looking out for us,” said Kalama.

“There are always going to be people who want to help you succeed and who went through the same struggles that you did. You just have to make noise and make it known that you need the help to make a positive change.” Cpl. Rosalinda Hernandez, a noncommissioned officer with Ammunition Co.

The Marines had the opportunity to visit the Pentagon and Marine Barracks Washington in the nation’s capital, Opha May Johnson’s gravesite in St. Paul’s Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, D.C., and The National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia.

At the Pentagon, the Marines spoke to a panel full of staff noncommissioned officers to general officers, who shared experiences through open dialogue.

Among those on the panel were two prominent Marines who continue to pave the way for the upcoming generations; Lt. Gen. Loretta Reynolds, and Brig. Gen. Lorna Mahlock.

Reynolds is the deputy commandant for Information, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps; and commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Strategic Command, and Mahlock, is the director of Information, Command, Control, Communications and Computers and the Deputy Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer of the Marine Corps.

“Overall this trip was important to me and my junior Marines because it’s important to see [women] being represented in places that we don't get to see often, in this case The Pentagon,” said Hernandez. “There is a lot of room for women to grow in the Marine Corps, but to see that there are women who are already in these positions is amazing.”

Remembering History Photo by Lance Cpl. Fatima Villatoro

The panel shared their successes, failures and lessons learned to the visiting Marines. This resonated with the Marines and prompted them to pronounce their struggles back at the panel. One struggle in particular - having a voice.

“This is their force,” said Maj. Sharon Sisbarro, a communication strategy and operations officer with the Communication Directorate, Headquarters, Marine Corps. “Part of what our efforts are as we try to incorporate diversity and inclusion, is to make sure that every Marine knows that we are here to listen to them and that their contribution is seen as the strength that is strengthening our force.”

As a Marine, initiative is one of the leadership traits that should be embodied by every leader. Taking the initiative to make a change and speak up about things that matter is what begins to make a difference.

“There are always going to be people who want to help you succeed and who went through the same struggles that you did,” said Hernandez. “You just have to make noise and make it known that you need the help to make a positive change.”

Although there is only 102 years of written history about women in the Marine Corps, Kalama believes that it is her generation's duty to upkeep and continue to grow the legacy of women in the Marine Corps.

“I don’t think I'll ever get to experience anything like this in my Marine Corps career again, but I'm so grateful that I did,” said Kalama. “It was almost like seeing the past and present communicate about how far we’ve come and what we still have yet to accomplish.”

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