US Marines run their first commercial starring a woman in combat

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"Battle Up," from J. Walter Thompson Atlanta, puts Capt. Erin Demchko in the spotlight 99 years after the first woman joined the Corps.

Ninety-nine years after Opha May Johnson became the first woman to enlist in the US Marine Corps, the service is unveiling its first commercial starring a woman.

The 30-second spot, created by longtime agency J. Walter Thompson, is titled "Battle Up" and stars a real-life Marine: Capt. Erin Demchko, a deputy commander at Camp Courtney in Okinawa, Japan, who graduated from the US Naval Academy and served a tour in Afghanistan.

The video, which debuts today on social media and will air on TV starting in two weeks, aims to encourage recruits to "not think that we are only looking for a few good men, that we're actually using all of our recurring efforts to find good women as well," Maj. Gen. Paul Kennedy, head of Marine Corps Recruiting Command, told the Associated Press.

Though "Battle Up" represents a step forward for the Marines’ recruitment of females, it’s hardly the first time the Corps has sought to recruit "a few good women." There were fitful attempts during the latter half of the 20th Century, including ads with tag lines like "You can look at models, or you can be one" and "Get a makeover that’s more than skin deep," that ran in magazines like Seventeen and Sports Illustrated for Women in the 1990s. 

The Marines began reaching out to women in a sustained, concerted manner in 2008, after years of the Iraq War had led to a decline in recruitment. That effort produced several print ads that featured women performing more traditional Marine activities, like training and fighting.

These days, after years of hitting their recruitment goals, the Marines are trying to create a more mature and experienced leadership. The modernizing of the Marines includes an initiative to increase the percentage of women, from 8.3 percent to 10 percent.

JWT has held the Marines account for 70 years, making it one of the longest-known agency-client relationships in the US. "Battle Up" was created by JWT’s Atlanta office.