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'Makers' retired Major General Angela Salinas helped blaze trail for women in military




Maj. Gen. Angela Salinas, director of the Marine Corps’ Manpower Management Division, and Lance Cpl. Austin Benz, a Marine Corps Body Bearer with Marine Barracks Washington, lay a ceremonial wreath at the Marine Corps War Memorial Feb. 23, 2011. The ceremony marked the 66th anniversary of the flag raising on Mt. Suribachi during the battle of Iwo Jima.
Maj. Gen. Angela Salinas, director of the Marine Corps’ Manpower Management Division, and Lance Cpl. Austin Benz, a Marine Corps Body Bearer with Marine Barracks Washington, lay a ceremonial wreath at the Marine Corps War Memorial Feb. 23, 2011. The ceremony marked the 66th anniversary of the flag raising on Mt. Suribachi during the battle of Iwo Jima.
Cpl. Scott Schmidt/Marines/flickr

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The PBS documentary series, "Makers" examines the military and its female trailblazers in "Women in War." One of the voices featured is Retired Major General Angela Salinas. She joined the Marine Corps in 1974 and went on to become the highest ranking female officer in the Marines.

 

Fifteen percent of those serving in the armed forces today are female, but that wasn't the case when Major Salinas signed up. When Salinas joined, boot camp was segregated and female Marines were trained in very different ways. “"You know, we were taught makeup and how to do your hair. And, you know, that was kind of expected because that was the face of a woman Marine," Salinas said.

But the times were changing in 1974. "Women are starting to demand to be recognized as a valuable resource for the nation," Salinas said. The country was going away from the draft and the armed forces began to realize the potential of an "untapped resource" of women with a desire to serve.

Salinas went on to officer training camp, which was not segregated and the women were trained in the same way that the men were, aside from different standards for the physical fitness test. According to Salinas, "These were like baby steps for the United States Marine Corps as they were trying . . . how best to [utilize] this untapped resource that was now beginning to flood the gates."

She went on to become the first woman in the Marine Corps to command a recruiting station and the first woman to serve as a recruiting district commanding officer.

Major General Angela Salinas was the highest ranking female officer in the Marines when she retired in 2013.

Makers: Women in War airs Tuesday, Oct. 21 on PBS.