MCAS BEAUFORT -- Thanks to the efforts of three Air Station Marines, the Tri-Command is now home to a branch of the Women Marines Association, and have hopes to soon become a charter member of the association.
The WMA originated in 1960 as the only association of women in the Marine Corps. It is a non-profit organization whose goals are to continue the traditions and esprit de corps of women Marines, sponsor activities for charity and education, promote the history of women in the Marine Corps and encourage camaraderie between women Marines.
According to Sgt. Amber Beegle, Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 maintenance management specialist, this will be the first time the only place where women are transformed into Marines will have a chapter of the WMA.
"I went on a forced march with my unit and my gunny and I asked him how to get more women involved," explained Cpl. Karla Willett, Marine Air Group 31 nuclear, biological, and chemical technician. "I didn't know the WMA even existed until I talked to Master Gunnery Sgt. Geeter. He told us who to get in touch with and how to get this whole thing started."
Willett said she was the first woman Marine in her shop and it was tougher than she thought it would be.
"I grew up with a lot of guys back home so I didn't think it would be so bad," said Willett. "It would have been nice to have another woman to talk to, and the WMA will do this for women here."
"I want to give young women Marines someone to look up to," said Beegle.
According to Beegle, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, her first duty station, was the hardest duty station she's had. As a private first class she was the lowest ranking out of the four women Marines in her barracks. She felt she had no one to turn to since the other three were sergeants.
"No one was allowed off base, I was on my own for all of my training," said Beegle. "I wouldn't want anyone to have to go through the same hardships I went through."
Wright explains when she arrived at her first duty station, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., she was the only woman in her shop. She had a mentor, but she still found it hard to talk to staff noncommissioned because she felt intimidated.
"With the WMA, young women Marines will have a group of people to help them enjoy their time in the Corps," said Cpl. Sharita Wright, MAG 31 administration clerk.
Beyond support, the WMA gives collegiate grants each year for eligible WMA sponsored applicants, the Molly Marine Award, which is given to outstanding woman Marine graduates at Parris Island, and awards given to outstanding cadets in the Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps across the nation. Some of the organizations' benefits include each member receiving, "WMA 'noucements," quarterly magazine and a member directory.
"It's really refreshing to see your ideas come to life," said Willett. "It gives me satisfaction to see it come together before I leave in April."
To be a member you must be a woman who is serving or has honorably served in the Marine Corps or Marine Corps Reserve between 1918 and the present. For more information phone Sgt. Beegle at 228-7436.