The War of 1812 saw “Lucy Brewer”, the first woman to ever serve in the Marine Corps, reportedly forced to disguise herself as a man in order to serve as a sharpshooter aboard the USS Constitution and defend the United States.
In 1918, Opha Mae Johnson followed Brewer as the first official enlisted female Marine following the Secretary of the Navy’s decision to allow women to enlist for clerical duty in the Marine Corps Reserve.
Because of their resilience, desire to serve their country, and drive to exemplify their equality with their male counterparts, today the nation honors them, and all women, for Women’s History Month every March.
The women of 2nd Marine Logistics Group (MLG) in Camp Lejeune, N.C. are living up to the legacy of their sisters-in-arms, who for the past seventy-five years, have set the standard for selfless service in the Corps, serving in vital billets around the logistics combat element for II Marine Expeditionary Force.
These women, along with countless other female Marines, proved that they can do just as much as their male counterparts, leading to the 2015 repeal of the ban on women in combat arms by former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, enabling service for women throughout the MLG.
“When I heard that females were allowed to enlist in combat jobs I was extremely motivated,” said 1st Lt. Briana Barca, executive officer of 2nd Transportation Battalion’s Alpha Company. “For combat jobs—or for any job in the Marine Corps—your gender shouldn’t matter. I know females are always going to be a minority in the combat arms, but that shouldn’t stop [them] from accomplishing what [they] want.”
Even with the combat ban lifted, women have continued to face scrutiny from service members, civilians, and lawmakers alike. Despite the adversity, female Marines are marching steadily forward, serving in critical roles throughout the MLG and the Marine Corps as a whole.
“I knew that coming into the Marine Corps I was going to be automatically judged because of [my gender],” said Barca. “There is a stereotype that … it’s harder for us to meet the standard physically. Our bodies are obviously built differently than theirs—and we sometimes have to work harder than they do—but if [women] put in the time and effort, we can be just as competitive.”
Aside from operational hurdles, women have also had to struggle with ancillary changes to their daily functioning in uniform, as the Corps has worked to fully integrate them into its rank-and-file over the past century.
1st Sgt. Jessica Davila, Company First Sergeant for Combat Logistics Battalion 2’s Headquarters and Service Company, has seen many adjustments to uniform regulations over her 15-year career—changes which she feels have finally given women the ability to embrace their identity while serving as Marines.
“When I was a junior Marine we weren't allowed to wear earrings,” said Davila. “Then I remember reading the change to the order, and I was excited about it. The next day, I showed up to work with earrings while wearing my service ‘charlie’ uniform.”
1st Sgt. Davila sees more progressive changes as critical to promoting the acceptance of feminism amongst Marines. She hopes these changes will help battle endemic sexism and misogyny, which have been a high-profile problem for women around the Department of Defense.
Marines are known for being the first to fight when the nation calls to defend its sovereignty. They are the nation’s shock troops and 9-1-1 force—regardless of gender. The women of 2nd MLG are proud to be part of that legacy and seek to continue making positive changes which promise to influence future generations of women in the Corps.
“As women, we should be proud of the fact that we are able to embrace our femininity and self-identity while serving in such a male dominant branch,” said Davila. “By simply being able to wear make-up, wear earrings, and [have] the option to wear a skirt [we are allowed] to present to the world that yes, we are serving in the most elite fighting force in the world, and there is nothing wrong with feeling beautiful while doing so.”