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Commandant to Marines: Report Social Media Harassment, Abuse

A drill instructor from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., teaches Marine Corps Drill to female poolees, women currently enrolled in the Marine Corps’ Delayed Entry Program. (Sgt. Richard Blumenstein/Marine Corps)
A drill instructor from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., teaches Marine Corps Drill to female poolees, women currently enrolled in the Marine Corps’ Delayed Entry Program. (Sgt. Richard Blumenstein/Marine Corps)

In the wake of reports of an online nude photo-sharing scandal that rocked the Marine Corps, the service's top officer is speaking out, urging troops to self-police internet activity and report their colleagues' bad behavior.

Commandant Gen. Robert Neller addressed Marines in a four-minute video circulated by the service Tuesday, three days after news of the allegations broke. He emphasized Marines' reputation for honor, courage and commitment to each other.

"Unfortunately, it appears that some Marines may have forgotten these fundamental truths and instead have acted selfishly and unprofessionally through their actions on social media," he said. "So let me cut to the chase. When I hear allegations of Marines denigrating their fellow Marines, I don't think such behavior is that of true warriors or warfighters."

The military is investigating reports that members of the private Facebook group Marines United circulated links to nude and compromising photos of female troops without their consent, along with their personal identifying information.

The Marine Corps has not said how many of the 30,000-member group are being investigated, but officials said charges could be pending for those found to have participated in the illicit activity. Other female Marines have reported having their photos appropriated and being targeted for harassment by similar groups as far back as 2008.

Neller's tough address to Marines is reminiscent of a 2013 video made by Australian Chief of Army Lt. Gen. David Morrison in response to sexual assault and harassment in the ranks. In that video, which earned him international praise, Morrison said that those engaged in such behavior "had no place" in his army.

In the video released Tuesday, Neller struck a similar tone.

"What we say and do each day represents who we are, and there is no time off for Marines," he said. "We are all-in 24/7, and if that commitment to your excellence interferes with your 'me time' or if you can't or are unwilling to commit to contributing 100 percent to our Corps' warfighting ability by being a good teammate and improving cohesion and trust, then I have to ask you, 'Do you really want to be a Marine?' "

He urged those who observe harassment or other discriminatory behavior to speak out and report those at fault.

"For our [noncommissioned officers] and [staff noncommissioned officers], I expect that you will support all Marines who report behavior that is prejudicial to good order and discipline, including conduct that is degrading to Marines, ensure they are protected from any form of retaliation, and do all in your power to prevent harassment or abuse of any Marine or sailor," he said.

Those who believe themselves to be victims of social media harassment or abuse should report it to their chain of command, their chaplain, or a victim's legal counsel, Neller said.

Officers, for their part, should clearly communicate the rules regarding social media conduct and work to understand the negative impact of online harassment and abuse on good order and discipline, he said.

A Marine Corps spokeswoman, Capt. Ryan Alvis, said Monday that future steps beyond the current investigation remain unclear. Marine leadership is still considering additional actions, she said.

"We will ensure that the investigative process that is ongoing supports the reporting of conduct like this," Neller said. "If changes need to be made, they will be made."

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at@HopeSeck.

Related Video:

Gen. Neller Addresses Sexual Harassment in the Marine Corps