By Airman 1st Class Harry Brexel
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Women have been proudly serving in the United States Marine Corps for almost 100 years. It all started in 1918 when Pvt. Opha Mae Johnson became the first woman to enlist in the Marine Corps Reserve.
The number of women serving in the Marines grew from there. During the Vietnam War there were more than 2,700 women Marines fighting for freedom, both stateside and abroad.
Women at Little Rock Air Force Base are continuing the legacy of female Marines.
Staff Sgt. Sandra Poston, Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training master training specialist coordinator on base, knew she wanted to be a Marine the second she walked into her recruiter’s office.
“I went to the other branches’ recruiters, but the Marines stood out,” Poston said. “They had confidence and were professional.”
After joining, Poston said there was one prominent benefit of being a woman Marine.
“Females are closer,” said Poston. “We have a sense of camaraderie. Other female Marines have greatly inspired me. I could go to any of my friends’ doorsteps around the world and know that they would take me in.”
Poston said she hasn’t faced any discrimination, but she often has to prove to males that she is just as capable of doing the job.
“We know we joined a boys club,” said Poston. “Sometimes we have to make sure our male counterparts see us as the same. After all, we are all Marines wearing the same uniform.”
Lance Cpl. Amanda Gulbranson, Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Marine student, joined the Marines after her brother enlisted.
Gulbranson said the only apprehension she’s faced wasn’t from Marines, but from outsiders.
“I haven’t been in the Marines for very long, but sometimes people are skeptical and question me on why I chose the Marines,” Gulbranson said.
Many members of society still picture a Marine as a strong masculine male. But today, more than seven percent of U.S. Marines are female.
“I am inspired by all women Marines,” Gulbranson said. “But I find camaraderie in all Marines, female or not.”
Gulbranson mentioned three females who graduated infantry training in 2013 as a notable example. The three women were the first to graduate from the Marine Corps’ Infantry Training Battalion course in the Marine Corps’ 238-year history.
“I met the three, and they were very confident,” said Gulbranson. “They were your typical grunts ready for battle. They weresure of themselves, but they earned the right to be.”
Ten more women have graduated the course since the three women.
Gulbranson also acknowledged another person to recently influence her, an Airman from Little Rock AFB.
“Chief Master Sgt. Overton gave a speech to us, and it really inspired me. It is encouraging to see a woman make it to that position,” said Gulbranson.
Chief Master Sgt. Margarita Overton became the first female command chief master sergeant of the 19th Airlift Wing in May 2012.
More and more opportunities are available for women that were not, just 20 years ago. Women who pursue historically male-dominated career fields, such as the military, are paving the way for others. The female Marines on base play a vital part in what will continue to make women’s history.