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8th and I welcomes first female sergeant major

Jun. 24, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Sergeant major of Cherry Point passes sword, retir
Sgt. Maj. Angela M. Maness salutes Col. Philip J. Zimmerman upon posting for duties as sergeant major of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., in April 2011. Maness will become sergeant major at Marine Barracks Washington on Thursday. (Cpl. Tyler J. Bolken / Marine Corps)
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The Washington, D.C., command housing the Marines’ most prestigious ceremonial units will receive its first female sergeant major later this week.

Sgt. Maj. Angela Maness will assume the duties of senior enlisted Marine at Marine Barracks Washington, a job known as the “oldest post of the Corps” during a Thursday morning ceremony, according to news releases from Marine officials.

Maness joined the Marines in 1987 and has previously served as sergeant major for Combat Logistics Battalion 8, Camp Lejeune, N.C., and for Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. At the barracks, she will replace Sgt. Major Eric J. Stockton, who took the post in 2010 and will retire at the end of a 30-year career following his relief.

“We’re very excited about the possibilities and the leadership potential that Sgt. Maj. Maness brings to the table,” said Capt. Jack Norton, a spokesman for 8th and I. “She is the most qualified for the job; she just happens to be a woman.”

Maness’s history-making assignment following a series of high-profile sex assault incidents that have given Marine Barracks a black eye. In March 2012, two female officers who had served at 8th and I joined six other female sailors and Marines in filing a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington, alleging they had been raped while in the military. The suit named as defendants Commandant Gen. Jim Amos and former commandants, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and former secretaries and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former secretaries.

One of the Marines, 1st Lt. Ariana Klay, alleged she was gang-raped at her home a block away from the barracks in 2010, and later shamed and harassed by her peers for the incident. The other, 2nd Lt. Elle Helmer, a public affairs officer, said in the complaint that she was raped by a superior in 2006 after being pressured to drink excessively during a “pub crawl.”

The lawsuit was dismissed in February 2013 when U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that her court could not provide the kind of remedy the plaintiffs sought; under the Feres doctrine, the federal government cannot be held liable for injuries related to troops’ military service.

Most recently, a female bartender, Karalen Morthole, told NBC News that she had been raped by Master Sgt. Ronald Bohlayer on the premises of 8th and I after a night of drinking with him. Though a Marine investigating officer recommended that rape charges be dismissed, the recommendation was overruled by Maj. Gen. James Kessler, the court-martial’s convening authority, and the case will proceed.

Maness was honored in May by the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues for her military achievements, including being slated to assume the role of sergeant major at Marine Barracks Washington.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be selected,” she said, according to a news release from the event. “Words of wisdom, not just for female Marines, for every Marine: Do your job, stay in the fight and do the best job you can do for your boss, for the Corps, for America.”

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