March 15 (UPI) — Testifying before the Senate Tuesday about the nude photo scandal that has enveloped his arm of the military, the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps said the branch has a significant problem when it comes to viewing female Marines in the same light as their male counterparts.
Four-star Gen. Robert B. Neller appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee, where he was pressed for answers about the growing scandal, which involves a secret Facebook page called “Marines United” that effectively passed around nude photos of female members, veterans and other women.
The Pentagon is investigating the page to learn how the photos were taken and which Marines were behind them. Some of the pictures appeared to have been taken without the women’s knowledge or consent — and some were accompanied by sexually aggressive or violent comments.
As the corps’ commandant, Neller has taken criticism for the emerging scandal, and faced tough questions from the committee Tuesday — including from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who pressed Neller on whether gender discrimination and misogyny is something that grows from boot camp.
“Are you willing to reconsider the role that Marine recruit training plays in this and re-evaluate the Marine Corps’ policy of gender segregation at basic training?” she asked Neller.
“The Marine Corps I have served for over 40 years has a problem, and we intend to fix it,” Neller said in his remarks to the panel.
“The online behavior of some individuals, whether they are currently serving Marines, former Marines or others who have simply wandered in have attacked our Marine Corps values.”
Neller likened the gender challenge in the Marine Corps to racial obstacles the branch faced in the 1960s and 1970s, which the commandant said “were tearing us apart.”
“I would ask to take this opportunity to speak to every female in our Marine Corps, past and present: I know I’m asking a lot of you right now, but I ask you to trust the leadership of the Marine Corps to take action and correct this problem,” he said. “I ask you to trust me personally as your commandant — and when I say that I am outraged that many of you haven’t been given the same respect when you earn the title of Marine.”
“To the men in our corps, to those serving today and those no longer wearing the uniform, you are still Marines,” Neller continued. “I need you to ask yourselves, ‘How much more do the females of our corps have to do to be accepted? Was it enough when Maj. Megan McClung was killed by an IED in [Iraq]? Or Capt. Jennifer Harris was killed when her helicopter was shot down while she was flying blood from Baghdad to Fallujah?”
Last week, it was reported that there may also be more locations on the Internet that exist to circulate nude photos of women in other branches of the military. All four branches — Army, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard — are looking into those possibilities.
“Such actions pervert our culture,” Neller said Tuesday. “We will take action to correct this stain on our Marine Corps.”