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The Marine On Hell's Kitchen's Problem With Female Marines Started At Boot Camp
When I was the commanding officer of the 4th Recruit Training Battalion at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, I repeatedly raised concerns to my chain of command about the gender bias and sexism my female Marines, recruits, and I faced. The recently relieved commander of 3rd Battalion was well known for making derogatory comments about women, going so far as to call my recruits “distractions” on hikes and telling the regimental commander he saw “no value” in integrating training events. My drill instructors and recruits repeatedly heard male drill instructors and senior enlisted depot staff insulting women, calling our battalion the “4th Dimension.” It was all too common for male drill instructors to tell the slower male recruits that they ran like “girls” or were “pussies.” Worse, recruit graduation data demonstrated that female recruits had been allowed to underperform for decades compared to their male counterparts. As women, they were simply expected not to excel or be able to compete with their male peers.
Even after a formal equal opportunity investigation into my complaints, the commanding general of Training and Education Command determined no gender bias existed on the recruit depot. This was an interesting conclusion considering the investigating officer received firsthand accounts from female Marines of sexism and bias on Parris Island. She also received copies of the data demonstrating the longstanding trend of below-average performance by female recruits. Unfortunately, the investigating officer appeared to base her determination on statements from male depot personnel who not surprisingly didn’t think gender bias existed. That was almost exactly one year ago, and since then, the Marine Corps has remained willfully blind to gender bias within its ranks.
It was no surprise, then, that Marine chef, Sgt.Frank Cala, felt at ease making derogatory comments about female Marines while being filmed as a contestant on the cooking show “Hell’s Kitchen.” After being disqualified, Cala, executive chef to the commandant, was reported by Marine Corps Times and other media to have said, “The Blue Team never had any drama until the females came aboard and that’s when the ship sunk. That’s exactly why I get [expletive] female Marines and I send them back wherever the [expletive] they came from.” Supporters of Cala were quick to defend him, stating that the show’s editors could have cobbled various words from the interview together to create the controversial statement. His staff noncommissioned officer in charge, Gunnery Sgt. Brian Kauten, even went so far as imply that because Cala works with women every day, he couldn’t possibly be sexist.
Kauten cautioned readers not to believe everything they hear in the news. Kauten insisted that Cala was innocent, stating, “They can edit it and copy and paste and make any words come out of anybody’s mouth they want to — not just with him on the show, as an excuse, but with any contestant,” according to Marine Corps Times.
Many have drawn our attention to comments not in keeping w/ our values made on @HellsKitchenFOX Friday.
We are looking into it. Thank you.
— U.S. Marines (@USMC) April 4, 2016
The official Marine Corps response to the incident was that it is “taking the matter seriously” and that officials “are looking into it.” On Tuesday, Cala issued a video apology via Facebook. In the short clip, he claims to have respect for all Marines, regardless of gender. But his comments to the Fox television crew indicate a deep seated disregard for female Marines that most likely had its start in recruit training.
As with all of his male peers, Cala’s formative experience in the Marine Corps occurred in an all-male training environment. Segregation fosters an environment where women are routinely derided in order to establish them as “the other.” The cohesion in Cala’s boot camp platoon was most likely based on the idea that strength, courage, and warrior spirit are exclusively male virtues. As is still typical today, Cala’s drill instructors probably referred to the misfits of his platoon as “ladies” or “girls.” This is problematic for many reasons.
Recruit training techniques for men are based on what scientists call the “macho personality constellation,” or hyper masculinity. The macho personality constellation is marked by calloused sex attitudes toward women and the beliefs that violence is manly and that danger is exciting. At segregated Marine Corps boot camp, extreme mental and physical stresses of training are relied upon to produce strong fraternal bonds between male recruits and solidify the ideal of the male drill instructor as the premier leadership model. The sexist language used by the drill instructors to connote weakness is part of the unofficial training doctrine. In an environment where the female recruits and drill instructors are largely invisible but are commonly derided by the men, stereotypical views about women are used reinforce the male power hierarchy, in which women simply have no place.
Segregation leads male drill instructors and recruits to believe that women enjoy an easier boot camp experience and undermines the accomplishments of both the female recruits and their training staff. This is a dangerous practice that has damaged group cohesion and fostered demeaning stereotypes for female Marines. Most significantly, the hyper masculine environment promotes a climate of distrust between men and women and fosters the notion that violence, and not empathy and respect for humanity, is the most necessary component to being a warrior. Unfortunately, no amount of Marine Corps wide unconscious bias training will undo what Marines learn during their formative 13 weeks of initial training. Cala’s recent comments about female Marines are nothing more than a reflection of how he was transformed into a Marine at segregated boot camp.
Clearly, change is necessary in terms of how we indoctrinate men and women into the Marine Corps. If recruit training is indeed the foundational underpinning of an enlisted Marine’s values and character, we must embrace the idea that boot camp must evolve in order to eliminate training methods that serve to perpetuate gender bias. Hiding from the ugly baby by refusing to acknowledge that it exists will do nothing to curb sexist behavior, harassment, and assaults. It is time for the Corps to stop perpetuating the myth that callousness towards women is an integral part of creating a warrior spirit. Anything less is an insult to female Marines.
Supreme Court to consider whether military personnel can be prosecuted for rape long after the crime occurred
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My brother earned the Medal of Honor for saving countless lives — but only after he was left for dead
"As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night."
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.
They were the brave men who comprised a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that had been called in to rescue the SEAL Team 6 team (Mako-30) with whom he had been embedded, which left him behind on Takur Ghar, a desolate mountain in Afghanistan that topped out at over 10,000 feet.
As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night. After many delays, the mission should and could have been pushed one day, but Szymanski ordered the team to proceed as planned, and Britt "Slab" Slabinski, John's team leader, fell into step after another SEAL team refused the mission.
But the "plan" went even more south when they made the rookie move to insert directly atop the mountain — right into the hands of the bad guys they knew were there.
The leader of a Chicago-area street gang has been arrested and charged with attempting to aid the ISIS terrorist group, the Department of Justice said Friday.
Jason Brown, also known as "Abdul Ja'Me," allegedly gave $500 on three separate occasions in 2019 to a confidential informant Brown believed would then wire it to an ISIS fighter engaged in combat in Syria. The purported ISIS fighter was actually an undercover law enforcement officer, according to a DoJ news release.
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