The recent Marines United scandal underscored that the Marine Corps has a serious problem with gender bias, so pervasive that it infects nearly every aspect of Marine life on and off duty. In her recent memoir Fight Like a Girl: The Truth Behind How Female Marines Are Trained, Lt. Col Kate Germano addresses this problem through the prism of her own experience, mostly of the crowded year she held command of Fourth Marine Recruit Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.
“But there’s always a price to be paid. That’s the thing nobody ever tells you as a young officer at Quantico. It’s easy for the instructors there to tell lieutenants to, ‘always do the right thing.’ What they don’t tell you is that if that right thing bucks the system, [leaders] have to be willing to pay that freight all the way to the end of the line—and that end of the line is the end of your career. They don’t tell you that when you speak out, the institution you love with turn on your and attack you. People you think are your friends will slink off into the shadows and abandon you. It will come at the expense of your family, your future, your sanity, and your financial well-being. On the hard, controversial issues, most big institutions don’t want you to do the right thing. They want you to shut the fuck up and row.”
Infantrywoman. Tank commander. Aircraft door gunner. On March 1, to kick off Women’s History Month, the U.S. Marine Corps released a video depicting female Marines in serving in combat jobs, followed by photographs of female Marines from previous eras, with the tagline “For every woman who fights, there is a woman who fought for her.”
A year has passed since the Marines United social media scandal broke in the news, and despite the very real damage to Marine Corps’ reputation, few substantive changes have been made to reform the culture. As smart, fit young women consider their options for military service they will go where their talents are appreciated and valued. The Marine Corps is the only service that stands to lose. With the credibility of the service and its leaders at stake, there has never been a more pressing need for the organization to change.
The word Marine is synonymous with action. Initiative, or taking action in the absence of clear instructions, can mean the difference between mission success or failure. However, when drill instructors stray from doctrine and regulations and employ illegal methods in a misguided attempt to make their recruits tougher, they aren't exercising initiative — they are demonstrating cruelty, poor judgment, and questionable ethics.