Women Marines create history through years

3/25/2010  By Lance Cpl. Stefanie C. Pupkiewicz, Marine Corps Bases Japan

CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan  — “Opha Mae Johnson, 1918, ma’am,” is the response taught to all female recruits going through Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., to the question, “First female Marine?”

Johnson may have been the first female Marine, but she went through a very different Corps in 1918.

In the heat of World War I, women were first allowed to serve in the military. This was Johnson’s generation. Twenty-five years later, women were called upon to volunteer to “Free a man to fight,” during World War II.

It wasn’t until 1948 and Congress’ passage of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act that women became a permanent part of the Marine Corps.

Despite maintaining a permanent place in the Marine Corps for nearly 60 years, milestones are still being attained.

Sgt. Maj. Holly Prafke, the sergeant major of 3rd Supply Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, made the decision at 14 to be a sergeant major of Marines, she said, not realizing at the time that it was a rank not just a job.

Unswerving in her desire to be a Marine since that age due to the powerful influence of her Marine father, a Battle of Iwo Jima and Battle of Okinawa veteran of World War II, she enlisted in 1982 and shipped to boot camp at MCRD Parris Island in 1983. R

It was not the boot camp most modern Marines remember where the training cycle mirrors male recruits’. In 1983, female Marines did not qualify on the rifle; drill instructors did not have campaign covers, and they went through etiquette classes to learn to be more ladylike, Prafke said.

Remarkably good timing on her part led to her pinning on corporal in the same year women were finally authorized to wear the blood stripe and carry the noncommissioned officer’s sword, Prafke said. “I earned that blood stripe.”

Col. Susan Murray, the assistant chief of staff, G-2 for 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, will have been in the Marine Corps or Marine Corps Reserve for 26 years in May.

A member of the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Rochester, N.Y., she switched to the Marine Corps option after observing the discipline of Marines during an orientation.

“I needed a little more structure and a little more discipline,” Murray said… read more Here