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Master Gunnery Sgt. Diane Sharpe comes forward to begin her retirement ceremony aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Nov. 6. Sharpe, retiring after 30 years, was the first female to reach the rank of master gunnery sergeant in her military occupational specialty.

Photo by Pfc. Harley Robinson

First female master gunnery sergeant in aviation supply retires after 30 years

12 Nov 2015 | Pfc. Harley Robinson 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

Master Gunnery Sgt. Diane Sharpe retired after 30 years of service aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, Nov. 6.

Sharpe, an aviation supply chief with the 3rd Marine Air Wing and a Philadelphia native, has faced the many obstacles in the Marine Corps, and overcame them by becoming the first female master gunnery sergeant in aviation supply. The road to Sharpe’s success began when she walked into the wrong recruiting office.

 “I wanted to join the Army for two years to help pay for school, but I walked into the Marine Corps office by accident,” said Sharpe.

From there, the Marine Recruiter began to pull her in by showing her the uniforms and showing her everything the Corps has to offer.

“I wanted to join the toughest one, the one with the most challenge,” explained Sharpe. “I took the [Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery] test on the spot and he signed me up.”

Sharpe later left for Marine Corps Basic Training on Feb. 10, 1986. After graduating boot camp, she went to her military occupational specialty school for ground supply, but never actually did that job.

“Marines in that field were so interchangeable because we had fork lift licenses,” said Sharpe. “I then went overseas and worked as a heavy equipment operator.”

After her time working as a heavy equipment operator, she started working in aviation supply in 1992. She enjoyed working with the air wing so much she decided to make a lateral move into aviation supply. Although she found success as a Marine, Sharpe said the journey was not easy being a female.

“It absolutely affected my career,” said Sharpe. “Starting out, they called women Marines, ‘WM’s,’ and who was saying it determined if it was derogatory.”

Sharpe admits that she dealt with men treating her differently because she was a female, but it never stopped her from always trying to overcome it.

“I’ve always felt in the Marine Corps, I had to work twice as hard as the guy next to me,” said Sharpe.

 Despite the challenges she faced along the way, the hard work and dedication she put into her career led to her being the first female of her rank in aviation supply.

“She brings a lot [of knowledge to this MOS],” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Danielle Hendges, Sharpe’s successor. “When she leaves, there’s a lot of knowledge that is leaving the Marine Corps. She will be missed.”

Sharpe said she is looking forward to the future, building up her home and family, and making more time to spend with loved ones.

“Right now, I am a foster mom and I’m going to adopt my daughter, [who] I’ve been fostering since she was 18-months-old. She’s 4 and a half now,” said Sharpe. “I’ll probably do a lot more fostering, spend a lot more time with my children, and finish up my degree.”

Sharpe’s oldest son, who recently joined the Marine Corps, attended her retirement ceremony and presented her with a flag, which Sharpe said ended her career on a perfect note.

“In my 30 years I’ve probably faced every type of challenge you could get, but I just refused to let it keep me down,” said Sharpe. “Never let anyone dictate how far you go in the Marine Corps.”