(U.S. Marine Corps)

How We Found Out explores recent reporting from Task & Purpose, answering questions about how we sourced our stories, what challenges we faced, and offers a behind-the-scenes look at how we cover issues impacting the military and veterans community.

Following a string of news reports on a private Facebook group called Marines United, where current and former Marines shared nude photos of their fellow service members, the Corps launched an internal investigation to determine if the incident was indicative of a larger problem facing the military's smallest branch.

In December 2019, Task & Purpose published a feature story written by our editor in chief, Paul Szoldra, which drew from the internal review. In the article, Szoldra detailed the findings of that investigation, which included first-hand accounts from male and female Marines.

Task & Purpose spoke with Szoldra to discuss how he got his hands on the investigation, how he made sense of the more than 100 pages of anecdotes and personal testimony, and asked what, if anything, the Marine Corps may do to correct the problem.

This is the fourth installment in the recurring column How We Found Out.

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An internal investigation spurred by a nude photo scandal shows just how deep sexism runs in the Marine Corps

"I will still have to work harder to get the perception away from peers and seniors that women can't do the job."

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(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Some years ago, a 20-year-old female Marine, a military police officer, was working at a guard shack screening service members and civilians before they entered the base. As a lance corporal, she was new to the job and the duty station, her first in the Marine Corps.

At some point during her shift, a male sergeant on duty drove up. Get in the car, he said, the platoon sergeant needs to see you. She opened the door and got in, believing she was headed to see the enlisted supervisor of her platoon.

Instead, the sergeant drove her to a dark, wooded area on base. It was deserted, no other Marines were around. "Hey, I want a blowjob," the sergeant told her.

"What am I supposed, what do you do as a lance corporal?" she would later recall. "I'm 20 years old ... I'm new at this. You're the only leadership I've ever known, and this is what happens."

She looked at him, then got out of the car and walked away. The sergeant drove up next to her and tried to play it off as a prank. "I'm just fucking with you," he said. "It's not a big deal."

It was one story among hundreds of others shared by Marines for a study initiated in July 2017 by the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL). Finalized in March 2018, the center's report was quietly published to its website in September 2019 with little fanfare.

The culture of the Marine Corps is ripe for analysis. A 2015 Rand Corporation study found that women felt far more isolated among men in the Corps, while the Pentagon's Office of People Analytics noted in 2018 that female Marines rated hostility toward them as "significantly higher" than their male counterparts.

But the center's report, Marines' Perspectives on Various Aspects of Marine Corps Organizational Culture, offers a proverbial wakeup call to leaders, particularly when paired alongside previous studies, since it was commissioned by the Marine Corps itself in the wake of a nude photo sharing scandal that rocked the service in 2017.

The scandal, researchers found, was merely a symptom of a much larger problem.

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Gunnery Sgt. Nicholas Russo. Courtesy Facebook.

A Marine staff noncommissioned officer has been disciplined after defending rap artist R. Kelly on Facebook by claiming that men are "biologically designed" to be attracted to underage girls.

Gunnery Sgt. Nicholas Russo received "appropriate administrative action" following a command investigation into his Jan. 10 Facebook comments, said Capt. Matthew Gregory, a spokesman for Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California.

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A Marine has received "an adverse administrative action and counseling" after making comments on Facebook that blamed pedophilia victims for being sexually assaulted, said Gunnery Sgt. Jason Fudge, a 2nd Marine Logistics Group spokesman.

Master Sgt. Mark McBride was assigned to the 8th Engineer Support Battalion when 2nd MLG received a complaint alleging that he had engaged in social media misconduct, Fudge told Task & Purpose.

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Gunnery Sgt. Nicholas Russo. Courtesy Facebook.

Another Marine is in trouble for his comments on social media blaming an underage girl for allegedly having sex with an older man.

Gunnery Sgt. Nicolas Russo wrote on Facebook recently that men are biologically attracted to young girls and blamed former singer Aaliyah for allegedly getting pregnant when she was an adolescent.

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The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is looking into a Marine for allegedly making comments on Facebook blaming sexual violence on young girls, a 2nd Marine Logistics Group spokesman told Task & Purpose.

Master Sgt. Mark McBride made the comments on Sunday as part of a discussion about rap artist R. Kelly, who has been accused of statutory rape in a recent documentary.

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