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Local woman retires from USMC, 1 of 4 black women to be colonel

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By Julian Jeter-Davis, Dayton Daily News

The United States Marine Corps gave Col. Gail Jennings an opportunity to excel.

And excel she did.

Jennings is one of only four black women who have the rank of colonel in the history of the U.S. Marines. This summer, Colonel Jennings retired after 34 years of service to the country.

“My Aunt Allice was a big influence on me when I was a small child,” Jennings said. “She was very business minded, and I knew I wanted to be like that. She was quite an inspiration.”

As she finished high school, Jennings began to think about the military.

“I was 17 or 18 when it first crossed my mind,” she said, “but it was not until my sophomore year in college when I got serious about it.”

Jennings is a 1973 graduate of John H. Patterson Cooperative High School and a 1977 graduate of the University of Dayton with a bachelor’s degree in education. She also was captain of the volleyball team at UD and was inducted into the UD Sports Hall of Fame in 1983.

“I learned a lot about leadership playing volleyball,” Jennings said. “It requires you to rally the team … That leadership transitioned into the military.”

Jennings added that UD was “one of the best developmental things in my life.”

Jennings entered the Marines after graduating college in May of 1977 as a second lieutenant.

Jennings said that when she entered the service, “not every occupation was open to women.”

“The military was very male-dominated and is still today but there have been positive changes since I’ve been in. There is a more level playing field now,” she said.

Jennings was featured in the December issue of Ebony Magazine in 1982 and Jet in March 1983. She also was recognized at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation in February 2004 for being the “highest ranking active African American female over the history of the U.S. Marine Corps.”

“The military is a business just like any other business. It is just in the business of defense,” Jennings said. “The Marines provide you another opportunity to be in a career. It is a great educational, personal, and professional opportunity.”

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Written by Symphony

September 5, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Posted in Military

Tagged with , , ,

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