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First female Marine Corps general dies

Jan. 8, 2013 - 07:57PM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 8, 2013 - 07:57PM  |  
Brig. Gen. Margaret A. Brewer
Brig. Gen. Margaret A. Brewer (Military Times Hall of Valor)
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The Marine Corps lost one of its pioneering women last week with the passing of retired Brig. Gen. Margaret A. Brewer.

Brewer, 82, died Jan. 2, the Catholic Herald, the official newspaper for the Roman Catholic archdiocese in Arlington, Va., announced Jan. 7.

Brewer became the first female Marine general officer when she was appointed to the rank of brigadier general in 1978. She retired in 1980, ending a career that began with her 1952 commissioning into the Marine Corps Reserve.

The Marine Corps commandant called">Brewer "an amazing and courageous woman who left an indelible mark on the rich legacy of our Corps."

"I was deeply saddened to learn of the loss," Gen. Jim Amos said in a statement. "Throughout her 30 years of service to our Corps and country, she truly led from the front and helped the Marine Corps integrate women more fully into the force."

"She served during an era when many thought that women had no place in the Corps, but she proved critics wrong time and again," Amos said.

"It's never easy being the first."

When she rose to the general officer rank, Brewer was serving as the Corps' deputy director of information, according to her official biography. In 1979, she became the Corps' first director of public affairs with a restructuring of the information division, "and met the challenges and responsibilities of each with professionalism and grace," Amos said.

Brewer served at a time when women were a small percentage of the overall Marine Corps, but throughout her career, she served in positions of responsibility and leadership.

Her first assignment was as a communications watch officer at the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, Calif., according to her biography. In the next decade, she served as inspector-instructor of a women's reserve unit in Brooklyn, N.Y.; commander of women Marine companies in Norfolk, Va., and Camp Lejeune, N.C.; platoon commander for women officer candidates during summer training in Quantico, Va.; and woman officer selection officer in Lexington, Ky. In 1963, as a major, she served as the executive officer and then commanding officer of the Woman Officer School in Quantico. She later went on to serve as director of Women Marines in 1973.

Several years after Brewer pinned on the rank of brigadier general, another female officer, then-Col. Gail M. Reals, in 1985 became the first woman chosen by a Marine Corps promotion selection board for the rank of brigadier general.

In recent years, Brewer served as a lector at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, where she was a parishioner and was active in Catholic Charities, according to the diocese.

A funeral Mass will be held Jan. 14 at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More, with burial following at Columbia Gardens Cemetery in Arlington, the diocese announced.

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