JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – About 9% of all Marines are female and only about 4.3% of those women are officers, according to Marine Corps University. 

Women also made up 17% of all the nation’s armed forces in 2021, according to the Department of Defense. 

WAVY sister station WNCT had a chance this week to meet 13 female commanders onboard Camp Lejeune who all came together to celebrate their accomplishments. The ladies gathered on Wednesday to share experiences and show the world what it’s like to be a leader in the military. 

“I think we all kind of woke up and realized there were a whole lot of female commanders around. And for most of us, we didn’t get to grow up like that,” said one female Marine Corps leader, Col. Lauren Edwards. 

The 13 women commanders came from various bases in Eastern North Carolina for the historic moment.  

“Having all of us here, seeing each other, having you all witness it and commemorate it, either on camera or graphic or however you do it. And then future generations seeing that even though they may not meet us in person, I think that’s important,” said Col. Marshalee Clarke. 

They got to share their own experiences of what it’s been like to serve for over 20 years when most female Marines leave after about 10. 

“It’s really important that young females can see themselves in our organization because we all love our organization. But it’s been not everybody can see themselves because they don’t have people to look up to and hopefully, we’re doing that for them,” said Edwards. 

They hope this gathering will give all Marines something to look forward to.  

“You can be different; you can look different. But if you perform, if you are your authentic self, if you work hard, that you can achieve things that you didn’t think that you were able to,” said Lt. Col. Emmaline Hill.