Parris Island, East Coast Marine Training Grounds, Gets First Female Commander

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Brigadier General L.E. Reynolds is a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan; already the first woman to command a marine camp in “battle space,” the sprawling Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. Since June, she has served as the first woman to ever head Parris Island, the South Carolina military installation where male Marine recruits living east of the Mississippi and all female recruits train.

Reynolds, daughter of a steelworker and granddaughter of a Marine, downplays the significance of her gender, of course:

“We’ve been at war for 10 years with this generation of Marines,” Reynolds said. “We’ve seen women do a whole lot of things between the war in Iraq and the current war in Afghanistan. The fact that I’m sitting here making sure that we continue to put out the best young Marines is just a matter of it being 2011.”, however, notes that her position is the latest item in a couple-year-long trend of the role of women in the US military becoming more like the role of men in leaps and bounds.

Last year, the Navy announced that it will permit women to serve on submarines for the first time. Last month, the head of the military’s Special Operations Command said he favors allowing women to join the elite Navy SEALs, the epitome of highly trained warriors.

In March, a congressional commission recommended that a long-standing ban on women serving in ground-combat units be overturned as part of a broader effort to bring greater diversity to the armed forces, particularly in the officer ranks.

Separately, Congress has directed the Pentagon to review its 1994 policy that prohibits women from serving in units whose primary mission is “direct” ground combat, such as artillery, infantry and tank companies. The Defense Department was originally scheduled to respond with a report in April but has pushed back the delivery date to October.

The reality on the ground, however, is that women are taking on combat missions anyway, thanks to policies that permit them to serve in support units in war zones.

More than 271,000 female troops have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade, flying aircraft, leading convoys, collecting intelligence and working as medics, among other duties. As of Monday, according to Pentagon statistics, 141 women had been killed and 809 wounded in the two wars.

According to Reynolds, the trickiest adjustment Parris Island soldiers have made in her tenure so far has been switching from “sir” to “ma’am” in conversation.

(picture via The Washington Post, story from HamtonRoads).

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Susana Polo
Susana Polo thought she'd get her Creative Writing degree from Oberlin, work a crap job, and fake it until she made it into comics. Instead she stumbled into a great job: founding and running this very website (she's Editor at Large now, very fancy). She's spoken at events like Geek Girl Con, New York Comic Con, and Comic Book City Con, wants to get a Batwoman tattoo and write a graphic novel, and one of her canine teeth is in backwards.