Ending Harassment Of Women In The Corps Starts With Marine Leadership

Opinion
U.S. Marine Corps enlistees Emily Warren, Carlota Rolden, Dylan Kowalski and Maria Daume meet Maj. Gen. Paul Kennedy, commanding general of Marine Corps Recruiting Command, outside of the Fox News building in New York City, Aug. 17, 2016.
U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Brandon Thomas

As a Marine vet, I love the Corps and I tend to focus on the positives aspects of service. While I was on active duty from 20022008, I never talked about harassment and assault nor spent much time contemplating the severity of the problems. The result is guilt I still carry today. My last active-duty billet was at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. At 4th Recruit Training Battalion, I was responsible for the training and welfare of women who had just joined the Corps and were attempting to complete boot camp. I spent countless hours offering squad bay classes to my recruits, often taking triple the planned time to talk about important topics like educational benefits and goal setting. I was committed to connecting with them and mentoring where I saw opportunity. Some I heard from once they graduated boot camp, which was often wholly positive, but, in truth, far too many shared stories of harassment and assault that they’d experienced at their new schools and units. I had never talked about it with them in those squad bays.


I’d been in the Marine Corps for four years already and had countless stories of my own that I could have shared with them, had I spent any time on the issue. One memory of my time in Iraq involved investing in spray paint that I carried with me when I was on the FOB. I needed it to cover increasingly detailed and explicit drawings of me that decorated every porta john on Fallujah. I laughed at the time and gave the “artists” points for creative positioning. I was 25 and confident and refused to recognize the comments as harassment. I could have facilitated an honest and frank discussion with my young recruits who would potentially see that and much worse, and I did not. In that way, I’m complicit.

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Marines from the Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-East, navigate their way through the obstacle course at Camp Geiger, N.C., Oct 4, 2013.

I’ve come to realize that silence is both consent and tacit approval. I failed to speak when I should have, and to train and share where sorely needed. When I read the report that hundreds of Marines are being investigated for sharing explicit photos of servicewomen in a closed Facebook group, I knew it was time to speak up.

Related: DoD Investigating Hundreds Of Marines For Sharing Explicit Photos Of Servicewomen On Social Media »

I believe in the Marine Corps I fought for and think we can combat any enemy, including criminal harassment issues that create an internal battleground for servicewomen. But, in order to put an end, or even start to reduce this type of behavior, Marine Corps leadership needs to put forward a zero-tolerance message, commit to prosecution, and change its gender-segregated practices that devalue women as Marines. Otherwise, this cycle is going to continue.

This is the third reported incident since 2013 of the online targeting of female Marines by male Marines. In 2013, Gen. James Amos faced criticism from Congress for failure to handle extensive harassment issues. In 2014, Task & Purpose published an investigation into Facebook accounts run by Marines that exploited women and perpetuated rape culture. When the reporter reached out to Marine Corps headquarters for comment, “Task & Purpose was unable to ask a single question about the Corps’ response to this issue. An initial inquiry from Task & Purpose was met with an emailed statement from a Marine Corps spokesman, Capt. Eric Flanagan. A request to ask follow-up questions about that statement was denied.”

The Marine Corps’ response is significantly stronger than in 2013 and 2014. “The Marine Corps is deeply concerned,” stated a spokeswoman, adding that individuals who feel they were targeted should seek appropriate assistance via the Naval Criminal Investigative Service or Military One Source. Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller called for respect and trust via Twitter.

Sgt. Maj. Ronald L. Green’s statement offered a call that leaders at all levels should heed as the Corps weighs how to demonstrate leadership at every level. It is a call on which each of us as individuals should reflect. “Ultimately, we must take a look in the mirror and decide whether we are part of the problem or the solution,” he said in a statement. I wasn’t a strong part of the solution when I should have been as a young Marine officer, but I know now I can’t continue to turn a blind eye.

Corps leadership is finally speaking out, although what seems to be missing is a clear message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated and that there will be real repercussions for those found guilty of harassing women in any capacity. I can’t imagine why the Corps feels like it needs to tiptoe around this language, but the unwillingness to come out and say this is sadly unsurprising. The acts described on Marines United constitute harassment.

None if this is harmless fun, as the comments sections of many of the articles out today imply. It’s dangerous. The Marine Corps struggles with the highest rate of sexual assault of all service branches. One-third of women who reported being sexually assaulted in the past year were previously sexually harassed by their attackers.

Security challenges facing America in the 21st century are many. They include enemies united by ideology rather than statehood — male and female extremists alike. Female Marines will continue to be operationally needed, especially in the Middle East, during the coming years.

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Sgt. Christina E. Lahr, a field wireman with Headquarters Battery, 10th Marine Regiment teaches a class on how to properly interact with social media during a corporal’s course aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., Dec. 10, 2014.

Organizationally, Marine Corps leadership has a role to take not just in stopping harassment, but in recognizing the ways that segregated training and integration opposition contribute to the growth and cultural acceptance of women-bashing. Integration in the Marine Corps is currently happening from a place of imbalance as segregated training contributes to the marginalization of female Marines. It is also contributing to a culture of assault, harassment, and misogyny that damages women serving within it.

While Marine Corps leadership has spoken up against sexist Facebook movements perpetuated by its own, the next step is to take strong action to demonstrate the Corps values its female Marines and will defend them. Anything else will just be an empty gesture.

(U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)

Three U.S. service members received non-life-threatening injuries after being fired on Monday by an Afghan police officer, a U.S. official confirmed.

The troops were part of a convoy in Kandahar province that came under attack by a member of the Afghan Civil Order Police, a spokesperson for Operation Resolute Support said on Monday.

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Marine Maj. Jose J. Anzaldua Jr. spent more than three years during the height of the Vietnam War. Now, more than 45 years after his release, Sig Sauer is paying tribute to his service with a special gift.

Sig Sauer on Friday unveiled a unique 1911 pistol engraved with Anzaldua's name, the details of his imprisonment in Vietnam, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" accompanied by the POW-MIA flag on the grip to commemorate POW-MIA Recognition Day.

The gunmaker also released a short documentary entitled "Once A Marine, Always A Marine" — a fitting title given Anzaldua's courageous actions in the line of duty

Marine Maj. Jose Anzaldua's commemorative 1911 pistol

(Sig Sauer)

Born in Texas in 1950, Anzaldua enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam as an intelligence scout assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

On Jan. 23, 1970, he was captured during a foot patrol and spent 1,160 days in captivity in various locations across North Vietnam — including he infamous Hỏa Lò Prison known among American POWs as the "Hanoi Hilton" — before he was freed during Operation Homecoming on March 27, 1973.

Anzaldua may have been a prisoner, but he never stopped fighting. After his release, he received two Bronze Stars with combat "V" valor devices and a Prisoner of War Medal for displaying "extraordinary leadership and devotion to his companions" during his time in captivity. From one of his Bronze Star citations:

Using his knowledge of the Vietnamese language, he was diligent, resourceful, and invaluable as a collector of intelligence information for the senior officer interned in the prison camp.

In addition, while performing as interpreter for other United States prisoners making known their needs to their captors, [Anzaldua] regularly, at the grave risk of sever retaliation to himself, delivered and received messages for the senior officer.

On one occasion, when detected, he refused to implicate any of his fellow prisoners, even though severe punitive action was expected.

Anzaldua also received a Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his heroism in December 1969, when he entered the flaming wreckage of a U.S. helicopter that crashed nearr his battalion command post in the country's Quang Nam Province and rescued the crew chief and a Vietnamese civilian "although painfully burned himself," according to his citation.

After a brief stay at Camp Pendleton following his 1973 release, Anzaldua attended Officer Candidate School at MCB Quantico, Virginia, earning his commission in 1974. He retired from the Corps in 1992 after 24 years of service.

Sig Sauer presented the commemorative 1911 pistol to Anzaldua in a private ceremony at the gunmaker's headquarters in Newington, New Hampshire. The pistol's unique features include:

  • 1911 Pistol: the 1911 pistol was carried by U.S. forces throughout the Vietnam War, and by Major Anzaldua throughout his service. The commemorative 1911 POW pistol features a high-polish DLC finish on both the frame and slide, and is chambered in.45 AUTO with an SAO trigger. All pistol engravings are done in 24k gold;
  • Right Slide Engraving: the Prisoner of War ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor and "Major Jose Anzaldua" engravings;
  • Top Slide Engraving: engraved oak leaf insignia representing the Major's rank at the time of retirement and a pair of dog tags inscribed with the date, latitude and longitude of the location where Major Anzaldua was taken as a prisoner, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" taken from the POW-MIA flag;
  • Left Side Engraving: the Vietnam War service ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor engraving;
  • Pistol Grips: anodized aluminum grips with POW-MIA flag.

The top leaders of a Japan-based Marine Corps F/A-18D Hornet squadron were fired after an investigation into a deadly mid-air collision last December found that poor training and an "unprofessional command climate" contributed to the crash that left six Marines dead, officials announced on Monday.

Five Marines aboard a KC-130J Super Hercules and one Marine onboard an F/A-18D Hornet were killed in the Dec. 6, 2018 collision that took place about 200 miles off the Japanese coast. Another Marine aviator who was in the Hornet survived.

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A former Army soldier was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Thursday for stealing weapons from Fort Bliss, along with other charges.

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(U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

Editor's Note: This article by Richard Sisk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The Department of Veterans Affairs released an alarming report Friday showing that at least 60,000 veterans died by suicide between 2008 and 2017, with little sign that the crisis is abating despite suicide prevention being the VA's top priority.

Although the total population of veterans declined by 18% during that span of years, more than 6,000 veterans died by suicide annually, according to the VA's 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.

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