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Once A Marine, Always a Marine: The Story of Gilda A. Jackson


Retired Marine Col. Gilda A. Jackson of Columbus, Ohio talks about her Marine Corps career and the importance of Women in the Marine Corps as a part of Once A Marine, Always a Marine. Once a Marine, Always a Marine highlights Marines carrying on the traditions and morals of the Marine Corps long after hanging up the uniform. (Video By Lance Cpl. Michael Parks)

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Click here to view Womens Marine Corps historySince 1918 American women have served as members of the Marine Corps. Answering the nation's call for help during times of crisis, their fiery patriotism proved to be the equal of their male counterparts. During World Wars I and II, their role was to "Free a Marine to Fight." As the women of each generation have taken their turn to serve, they have broadened their role in the Marine Corps. Referred to as Marinettes, WR's and WM's in earlier years......today they need no special moniker. They are MARINES!


Colonel Adele E. Hodges

The first woman to command Camp Lejeune, NC. Colonel Adele E. Hodges took over as basCol Adel Hodgese Commander Jan. 23, 2006, overseeing more than 47,000 Marines and sailors. During her term at Lejeune, Hodges oversaw the development of new training, improvements to infrastructure and stepped-up security at Brown’s Island, a nearby atoll where unexploded ordnance is buried. After two years She relinquishes command of Camp Lejeune, 28 Jan 2008 and will join the Inspector General’s Office at Marine Corps headquarters in Arlington, Va.



SgtMaj Barbara J. Titus

SgtMaj Barbara J TitusCurrently serves as the first female Sergeant Major of Marine Corps Installations West, a command overseeing seven installations west of the Mississippi RiverPrevious to this She was also the first SgtMaj to serve as the SgtMaj for Marine Corps Detachment Ft. Leonard Wood Missouri the largest detachment in the Marine Corps.  Titus enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves on March 3, 1978. She attended Drill Instructor School at Parris Island, S.C., Later becoming a Chief Drill Instructor, and has served as an instructor at the Air Traffic Control Maintenance School in Millington, Tenn.   In Congressional speeches honoring women in the military, Titus, who has served overseas, including in Japan, was praised in May 2004 as "an invaluable leader in the Marine Corps."


Major General Mary L. Saunders

Maj. Gen. Mary L. Saunders is Vice Director, Defense Logistics Agency, Fort Belvoir, Va. The agency provides to the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and other federal agencies, a variety of logistics, acquisition and technical services in peacetime and war. These services include logistics information; materiel management; procurement; warehousing and distribution of spare parts, food, clothing, medical supplies and fuel; reutilization of surplus military materiel; and document automation and production. Approximately 23,300 civilian and military personnel perform this worldwide mission.

General Saunders was born in Nacogdoches, Texas, and grew up in Houston. She began her military career through the Officer Training School at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. She was commissioned a second lieutenant and entered active duty in 1971. The general has held various assignments in transportation and logistics plans, in the squadron, wing, numbered air force, headquarters and joint arenas.

Prior to assuming her current position, General Saunders worked as Commander of the DLA's Defense Supply Center Columbus in Ohio, and later, as the Director of Supply with the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Installations and Logistics, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.


1a  Captain Lillian E. Fishburne
U.S. Navy Shattering the "military" corporate ceiling along with Saunders are Captain Lillian E. Fishburne, U.S. Navy, and Colonel Gilda A. Jackson, U.S. Marine Corps.  Fishburne has the distinct honor of being recently selected to be promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral, a first.  She will become the highest ranking African-American female in the Navy. Fishburne attributes her success over the past 25 years to being focused in her commitment to doing every job held well and by asking no more from someone else than she has been willing to do herself.  "Every promotion or job assignment I get makes me more confident and draws upon my strengths and wisdom to do it correctly," states Fishburne.  Rear Admiral (Select) Fishburne is a wise woman, demonstrated by her having completed two Master's Degrees (M.A., Management & M.S., Telecommunications Systems Management) since graduating from Lincoln University in 1971 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology. 


Major Janice M. Johnson 2a
U.S. Army Jackson's recent promotion to Colonel in the Marine Corps sets another first in the history of that service.  In the Corps' 223 year history, she is the first African-American woman to become a Colonel.  She did it so in her own way, by first enlisting right out of high school in 1968, and serving three years before going to college.  Returning to the Marine Corps in 1975 following graduation, she began a steady climb up the ranks.  Leadership positions, being a student at various schools and numerous managerial and Commanding Officer assignments allowed Jackson to earn her promotions through hard knocks and hard work!  "I've always believed in myself and was never a quitter," states Jackson. 


Lieutenant Colonel Patricia Johnson

3aLieutenant Colonel Patricia Johnson began her career as an enlisted Marine and completed recruit training in 1980 at Parris Island, S. C., where her efforts earned her meritorious promotion to private first class. Her continued diligence and dedication paid off once again while attending her military occupational specialty school for personnel administration at Camp Johnson, N.C., where she was the honor graduate and earned a meritorious promotion to lance corporal.   Johnson transferred to Okinawa, Japan, in 1982. There she continued to develop as a leader and later earned a meritorious promotion to the rank of sergeant.  In 1986, Johnson was accepted to the Broadened Opportunity for Officer Selection and Training (BOOST) program in San Diego, California. This program prepares selected Marines from educationally deprived or culturally differentiated backgrounds to compete for selection to a Marine Corps officer program by improving their skills in areas such as mathematics, physical science and communication.  Upon completion of the course, she attended Memphis State University, Memphis, Tenn., through the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program and graduated in 1990 with a Bachelor's degree in business administration.  MECEP allows enlisted Marines the opportunity to obtain a Bachelor's degree and earn a commission in the Marine Corps. While attending school she completed Officer Candidates School during summer breaks and was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1991. After graduation she became a public affairs officer and continued her education while stationed in North Carolina. She completed her Masters of Science degree in business administration from Boston University while serving as the deputy public affairs officer at Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, N. C. From November 2003 to April 2004, Johnson served as the public affairs officer with Central Command Forward Headquarters in Qatar in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. In June 2007, Johnson assumed her current duties as director of public affairs, Marine Corps Base Quantico, V.a.


Columbus Native Inducted into OFIC Hall of Fame

Gilda JacksonRetired Colonal Gilda Jackson Receives Recognition for Life Achievements April 15 , 2002. An Ohio Dominican alumna and decorated Marine Corps veteran was honored as one of the most outstanding alumni of Ohio independent colleges and universities for paving the way for women and minorities in the U.S. Armed Forces. Retired Colonel Gilda A. Jackson was inducted into the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges Hall of Fame on April 10, 2002 in Columbus, OH. The Evening of Excellence featured the induction of outstanding alumni from various Ohio Independent Colleges who were nominated on an annual basis because of their accomplishments. In 1997, Col. Jackson, of the U.S. Marine Corps, became the first African-American woman ever to achieve the position of colonel in the Marine Corps as well as the first female commanding officer in the 56-year history of the Cherry Point Naval Aviation Depot. Now retired, Col. Jackson has decided to enter the political world, as a candidate for the North Carolina House of Representatives. Other recipients of the OFIC Evening of Excellence include: Wilmer Albert Cooper, Founding Dean of the Earlham School of Religion; Professor Emeritus, ESR; Karen Weaver Spero, Chairman, Spero-Smith Investment Advisers, Inc.; and Brian L. Stafford, Director of the U.S. Secret Service. Col. Jackson is a 1968 graduate of Bishop Hartley and a 1975 graduate of Ohio Dominican College where she received her B.A. in Economics. Her mother, Cathagenia Jackson, still resides in Columbus. She currently resides in Emerald Isle, NC. "Being selected for this award is an honor. My accomplishments are shared with many fine and outstanding people," said Jackson. "I would not be who I am today without the support and help I have received from family, friends, mentors, co-workers and people I have met throughout life. I am truly grateful for their help and support."


CWO Annie Laurie Grimes Article Written by SSgt (Ret) Mary T. Rock 8 February 1991

Mary T. RockCWO A.L.Grimes


A Pioneer and Leader

Alice F. Jones

4th African American Woman Marine Officer Passes

November 21, 1946 – August 16, 2009

If you wish to make a donation in lieu of flowers, please send it in honor of Alice to the ALS-Muscular Dystrophy Association on the Web: http://www.als-mda.org

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Sgt. LaDilvia S. Gregg

Sgt. LaDilvia S. Gregg An imagery analyst in Iraq in 2005, Gregg often spent 12-hour days scouring before-and-after photos while looking for changes to the landscape. These subtle “disturbances” are sometimes the only evidence that an improvised explosive device, the deadly roadside bomb responsible for the most U.S. deaths and injuries in Iraq, is buried underground. Gregg, a modest Marine whose efforts to sniff out IEDs likely saved U.S. troops’ lives and limbs, is one of 10 service members selected to tell the military’s story to the American public. As a member of the Defense Department’s “Why We Serve” outreach program, Gregg shares her tale of service at community and business events, veterans’ organizations and other gatherings.


Women In The Military
African-American Military Women: Soaring Beyond the Glass Ceiling

Maj. Shawna R. Kimbre

First Black Female Pilot While most fourth grade girls talk about being a ballerina, veterinarian, doctor or princess, Shawna Rochelle (Ng-A-Qui) Kimbrell, knew she wanted to take to the skies

First African-American female fighter pilot in the Air Force assigned with the ll, 555th Fighter Squadron.


World War II Nurse Corps

From its inception in 1901, the Army Nurse Corps had been an all-white1institution, but when the US Army began a program of rapid expansion in 1940 that necessitated an increase in thesize the War Department steadfastly clung to its official policy of racial segregation and continued that policy during World War II despite protests from black leaders and black soldiers.  Army officials justified this policy, insisting that the Army was a servant of the state, not an 2agent of change, and that the most efficient system of race relations would be one modeled after the constitutional ruling of “separate but equal”. This policy meant that the in the Army facilities for blacks and whites would be kept separate but not always equal. In 1940 the Army Nurse Corps remained an all white organization. But in 1940-41 black organizations put pressure on Congress and on the White House for a change in the recruiting policy.




In November 1994, Public Law 103-446 established   the Center for Women Veterans in the Department of Veterans Affairs under the Office of the Secretary. The primary mission of the Center for Women Veterans is to review VA programs and services for women veterans, and assure that women veterans receive benefits and services on a par with male veterans, encounter no discrimination in their attempt to access them, and are treated with the respect, dignity, and understanding by VA service providers.In November 1994, Public Law 103-446 established   the Center for Women Veterans in the Department of Veterans Affairs under the Office of the Secretary. The primary mission of the Center for Women Veterans is to review VA programs and services for women veterans, and assure that women veterans receive benefits and services on a par with male veterans, encounter no discrimination in their attempt to access them, and are treated with the respect, dignity, and understanding by VA service providers.



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During a demonstration while training at Montford Point, Cpl Arvin L. "Tony" Ghazlo, instructor in unarmed combat, disarms his assistant, PFC Ernest Jones. National Archives Photo 127-N-5334
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The Woman's Army Corps (WAC) Mothers Association was founded during World War II (W.W.II) by some of the mothers of women in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) which later became the Women's Army Corps. The WAC Mothers' purpose was to help both men and women by serving in hospitals and USO's, selling bonds, mending clothes, sending comfort packages to the WACs and doing anything they could to make life more comfortable for the men and women serving their country.

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