OKINAWA, JAPAN --
In honor of Women’s History Month, all the female Marines and Sailors who make up 3rd Sustainment Group gathered to take a group photo, March 16, 2022. Granted, the photo showcased the different military uniforms available to female Marines and Sailors, it was so much more than that.
The women that day of course expected to take a photo, but from the expressions of those gathered and the emotions in the air, no one had realized how big of an impact and effect it would have.
The smiles, the laughter, the bonds were truly incredible to watch. There that day you had women of all backgrounds, of all religions, of all ranks and military occupational specialties, smiling at a camera in a place they wouldn’t have been about a century ago.
Photo by Staff Sgt. Hailey Clay
In honor of Women’s History Month, all the female Marines and Sailors who make up 3rd Sustainment Group gathered to take a group photo at Camp Kinser, Okinawa, Japan, Mar. 16, 2022. 3rd MLG, based out of Okinawa, Japan, is a forward-deployed combat unit that serves as III Marine Expeditionary Force’s comprehensive logistics and combat service support backbone for operations throughout the Indo-Pacific area of responsibility.
It was more than just a photo that day. Through this gathering, they got to experience, share and celebrate the distinct similarities and differences between the ranks and generations of Marines and Sailors. After the photo, all the women in attendance broke into groups and took their own separate photos to remember the day.
You never realize how important a moment is sometimes until you look back on it. In 1918, at the end of the First World War, there were barely over 300 women enlisted in the Marine Corps who supported the war efforts by doing clerical and administrative work while men were deployed overseas. Today, 3rd SGX has 150 women in its unit formation, one the highest female to male ratios in the Marine Corps per capita. Moreover, they are forward-deployed to the Indo-Pacific and are ready to fight now.
Lt. Col. Rachel Gonzales, executive officer of 3rd SGX, has not only seen the integration of women into all combat roles, but she has also seen an overall increase of female Marines, from enlisted to general officers.
“As I’ve progressed in my career, I’ve been privileged to be a part of conversations to implement change and achieve diversity of thought within the ranks.” Lt. Col. Rachel Gonzales, executive officer of 3rd SGX
In 2019, the Marine Corps integrated men and women together during recruit training to strengthen unit cohesion between Marines in the earliest stages of their career. For Pfc. Malaya Cooley, an ammunition technician with 3rd SGX, who joined in April, 2021, integration has been a largely positive experience filled with encouragement and challenge.
“It was new to the drill instructors because they had a different experience for their own boot camp, but for all of my fellow recruits it was normal and very morale boosting,” said Cooley. “We were all there for each other.”
Even though women were still under-represented at the turn of the 21st century, their call to serve and fight throughout the Nation’s history is well documented. And like those that came before them, the women of 3rd SGX are poised to secure their place in history as well.
3rd MLG, based out of Okinawa, Japan, is a forward-deployed combat unit that serves as III Marine Expeditionary Force’s comprehensive logistics and combat service support backbone for operations throughout the Indo-Pacific area of responsibility.