Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island’s soon-to-be mascot has begun “recruit training.”
“Opha May,” an English bulldog puppy, “stepped onto the yellow footprints” — the same footprints where newly arrived recruits plant their feet — Monday, according to depot spokesman Capt. Adam Flores.
She will be the first female mascot, according to depot records.
In the upcoming weeks she’ll appear at several training events alongside recruits from Alpha and Papa Companies, with whom she’ll graduate on Nov. 17, 2017, according to Flores.
Recruits might see her around the rappel tower, the rifle range and during their “Combat Fitness Test.”
Closer to graduation, she’ll appear during the Crucible, the Eagle-Globe-and-Anchor Ceremony, the “Moto Run,” and the Family Day Ceremony.
She’s named in honor of Opha Mae Johnson, who in 1918 enlisted in the Corps and became the first female Marine, according to the Women Marines Association. Johnson was the first of some 300 women who joined the Corps that year to assume clerical duties so other Marines could be sent overseas to fight in World War I.
By war’s end, Johnson was the senior enlisted woman, having been promoted to sergeant, according to Marine Corps history.
The puppy will take over from “Cpl. Legend,” whose health the Corps says is declining.
“Per the Depot Order,” Flores wrote in an email, “the (depot) veterinarian’s assessment of the current mascot is our trigger to start the replacement process.”
Cpl. Legend began serving in the fall of 2011; he has been one of the longest-serving dogs, Flores said. He was preceded by “Sgt. Archibald Hummer,” who passed away in September of that year.
Cpl. Legend will continue his duties — which include attending ceremonial events, Morning Colors ceremonies and graduations — until Opha Mae finishes recruit training.
Parris Island’s mascots date back to 1914, according to Flores. The first was an Irish Terrier named “Mike,” for whom a memorial stands near the commanding general’s home — it’s the oldest monument on base.