“It isn’t a job for a female or a male,” Sgt. Maj. Lanette Wright explains of her new role. “It’s a job for a Marine.”
Wright took over as senior advisor for the 24 Marine Expeditionary Unit following a relief and appointment ceremony on March 14. At that time, Wright became the first woman to serve as the sergeant major for the 24th MEU.
The 45-year-old who lives in Sneads Ferry said she wants Marines, both men and women, to embrace the changing face of the Marine Corps and the broadening spectrum of billets women will fill in the future. Selected for her new billet by an array of sergeants major, Wright feels as though her vast knowledge of both MEU and Marine Air Ground Task Force operations make her well-suited for the role.
“ Be ing the sergeant major for a MEU is a job for a Marine, which makes me perfectly qualified,” Wright said. “For those who don’t want me to hold the billet, embrace the change and get comfortable with it because it’s going to happen. There’s always going to be discomfort with decisions to put women in certain roles; but until we prove their opinions right, why shouldn’t we hold the job?”
Marine Col. Scott Benedict, the 24th MEU’s CO, said that the Marine Corps is a merit-based establishment and the rank of sergeant major is a coveted rank reserved for the best and brightest leaders. While Wright’s appointment as the MEU’s sergeant major is due to her exceptional service record, he said it is historic because she is the first female to hold the billet.
“Sgt. Ma j. Wright brings broad expeditionary experience as a Marine operating aboard ships and on land in almost every major operation the Corps has conducted in the last 25 years,” Benedict said. “She knows MEUs. She knows Marines. She knows what to do.”
The new role, according to Wright, is the “ultimate” job for her and falls within the natural progression of her career. Joining the Marine Corps as a communications center operator and later transitioning to data communications chief, Wright said that her dream has always been to reach not only the rank of sergeant major but to hold her future billet with the MEU.
“I j oined the Marines for challenges and to be the best Marine I could be,” she said. “It will be an honor and a privilege to be one of the faces of the MEU, and I know it will definitely be a challenge. I don’t know exactly how (being a woman) will affect things, but it is a challenge I am willing to accept. There have been multiple times I have held senior billets in the Marine Corps, and I don’t think this will be much different.”
Kn o wing that other female Marines will be looking up to her in her new position, Wright said that her message to the Marines has and will always remain the same: They should be comfortable with who they are as a leader, to never try to be someone else and to always give their best in whatever the Marine Corps throws at them.
“I th ink the Marine Corps is heading down the right path when it comes to giving women more opportunities,” Wright said. “Whether I open the door or the Marine Corps opens the door, I think the Marine Corps is trying to do the right thing and provide the best opportunity for Marines to serve in whatever capacity they want to.”
Wright also said that there is still work to be done. With time though, she hopes that the face of the Marine Corps will change from being predominantly male to being more even among genders — something she said will happen once Marines embrace that they are one team sharing the same uniform.
Wright said any weight on her shoulders from being part of the MEU’s leadership is something she has grown used to carrying to since she joined the Corps — the same weight that has been supported by her mother, who died in 1993 but still brings Wright strength and encouragement. She said she will be focusing on being the leader she knows she can be and not focus on trying to prove herself.
“I ju st think and I truly believe that more and more opportunities will open up across the Marine Corps as time goes on,” Wright said. “As we go and the Marine Corps continues to progress we will see more women filling various opportunities. Because of how few of us they are, it might just take us time to get there.”