ARLINGTON, Va. —One year ago, the Marine Corps became aware of social media misconduct that proved to be a symptom of a larger problem of bias and exclusion. The Marine Corps formed a Task Force to immediately begin improving the ways we support victims, enforce accountability, and train the force.
Ultimately these efforts will produce the kind of Marine Corps that we want, and our Marines deserve – a Corps where every Marine is treated with dignity and respect, where teamwork and strong unit cohesion maintain our warfighting edge.
In July 2017, the Personnel Studies and Oversight Office (PSO), was created to oversee a variety of initiatives related to this complex issue. Members of PSO have met with leaders and Marines across the fleet to identify opportunities for long-term changes to improve unit cohesion and ultimately our warfighting capability. PSO has also met with members of corporate America, veteran service organizations, and victim advocates in order to scope the issue of bias and glean best practices. There are currently twenty seven initiatives for action including the following:
• Eliminating gender bias from 105 Marine Corps doctrine;
• Leveraging survey data from throughout a Marine’s career to understand the cultural impacts on their decisions to stay or leave the Marine Corps;
• Training to outgoing Marines about “upholding the honor” via the Veteran’s Transition Readiness Seminar Program;
• Expanding training on unconscious bias throughout the continuum of Marine professional development and creating hip pocket classes at the small unit level.
Immediately following the revelation of “Marines United”, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) scanned nearly 131,000 images across more than 168 social media sites. Task Force Purple Harbor, facilitated in part and informed by NCIS, has investigated at least 123 subjects, suspects, or otherwise persons of interest with reported involvement in incidents of online social media misconduct, to include the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. Among all persons of interest, 22 were identified as civilians outside Department of Defense jurisdiction, and 101 were active-duty or reserve Marines. These cases have been referred to the cognizant commanders, who in their independent and unfettered discretion have decided upon disposition in 82 such cases while 19 disposition decisions remain pending. To date, 55 Marines have been held accountable for online social media misconduct: six special and one summary courts-martial, 6 administrative separations, 15 non-judicial punishments, and 27 adverse administrative actions. These cases span beyond the Marines United Facebook page and reflect investigations on a spectrum of misconduct. While many cases involve photos, clothed or explicit, some involve verbal remarks without images.
The Marine Corps recognizes the importance of male and female Marines training together to build unit cohesion, and has made changes to the training pipeline to realize that exposure.
Male and female recruits at Marine Corps Recruiting Depot Parris Island train together whenever possible. This includes training during the physical fitness combat fitness tests, attending classes and chapel together and conducting hikes together. To increase integration at MCRD Parris Island, a female Company Commander is a leading a male company and a male is leading a female Company.
In March, the Commandant added a 4th Phase to boot camp, which provides valuable mentoring opportunities between drill Instructors and the new Marines. This provides a more engaging environment for Marines and allows for discussion of complex issues, what is expected of them in the operating forces, and how to uphold core values of honor, courage and commitment.
March 6, 2018, marked a historical moment when female Marines, for the first time, joined Marine Combat Training Bn. at Camp Pendleton, where approximately 1,700 women will be trained annually. Marine Combat Training (MCT), a part of the School of Infantry, provides all enlisted Marines basic infantry training following boot camp.
Anyone who believes they may have been a victim of this kind of misconduct is encouraged to contact the anonymous NCIS tipline at email@example.com, (877) 579-3648<tel:%28877%29%20579-3648>, or http://www.ncis.navy.mil/ContactUs/Pages/ReportaCrime.aspx. Marines can also go through their chain of command, which will route the tips to NCIS, as necessary.
Resources for reporting crimes and misconduct, as well as for receiving support can be found at: http://www.usmc-mccs.org/socialmediaFAQs/.