Iwakuni forms local WMA chapter, keeps legacy of female Marines alive
7/16/2010 By Cpl. Kristin E. Moreno, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan — The Iwakuni Torii Chapter here was recently recognized as an official chapter of the Women Marines Association.
The WMA is a non-profit veteran organization established in 1960 and comprised of women who have served or are serving honorably in the Marine Corps active or reserve components. The organization aims to preserve the history of female Marines and keep their legacy alive.
In December 2009, Cpl. Cynthia Sosa, founder of the Iwakuni Torii Chapter, first began the process of establishing the local chapter.
Sosa belonged to the local WMA chapter in San Diego and said she missed the camaraderie that came with belonging to a local chapter when she came to Iwakuni.
&rdquoI thought having a WMA chapter (in Iwakuni) could provide some great support for the women here,” said Sosa. “As small as Iwakuni is, I know that I don’t know all the women Marines, especially prior service. Having a chapter here would allow us to get together on serious topics or just to build comradeship.”
Cpl. Julia Henley is the president of the Iwakuni Torii Chapter. Lance Cpl. Melissa Pondi is the vice president, Lance Cpl. Melinda Schulz is the treasurer, and Lance Cpl. Gabriela Venegas is the secretary.
The chapter will meet at least once a quarter but aims to meet once a month. The majority of the chapter is active duty, so deployments and training exercises tend to inhibit the chapter’s ability to meet monthly, said Henley.
The chapter will sponsor activities to improve community relations with Japanese nationals, conduct programs for charitable and educational purposes, and get involved in the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps and Lunch Buddies Program at Matthew C. Perry Elementary School.
“Having a local chapter does great things when it comes to unifying female Marines as a whole (outside the contiguous United States) and increasing the camaraderie between female Marines throughout the Corps,” said Henley.
The local chapter has more than 25 members and is steadily growing.
“The WMA is an association dedicated to upholding the history and progress of women in the Marine Corps,” said Henley. “Not only do we uphold the rich history, but we also educate the younger female Marines on what kind of legacy they’re helping to continue as a female Marine.”
Henley encourages female Marines to join because the WMA builds camaraderie and provides support for and from other females on station. The WMA also provides female Marines with information and career options open to them they might not have known about otherwise.
The 26th biennial Women Marines Association Convention and Professional Developmental Conference “A Walk Through Time” will be held Sept. 3-7 in Denver, Colo.
For more information about the convention and how to attend, refer to Marine Administrative Message 254/10.
For more information on the Women Marines Association or how to join, visit www. womenmarines.org, or contact your local chapter president by e-mail at [email protected]
Mary Ann Merritt