New Marine Corps Order Officially Bans Revenge Porn, Race Supremacism

White nationalist demonstrators use shields as they clash with counter demonstrators at the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.  (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
White nationalist demonstrators use shields as they clash with counter demonstrators at the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

After Marines in the last two years have been caught marching in a deadly white supremacist rally and distributing nude photos of their female colleagues online, leaders are cracking down on some of the unsavory behavior in the ranks with a new service-wide order.

Marine officials have updated and consolidated several orders -- some of which hadn't been touched in more than a decade -- to define clearly the activities and conduct that are prohibited while serving in the Corps.

The new order tightens accountability and specifies some of the behavior that could leave Marines on the fast track to separation. That includes hazing, abuse, retaliation, wrongful distribution of intimate images, and participation in certain protests, to include race supremacist activity.

Service leaders put out a memo earlier this month addressing frequently asked questions about the updated policy.

The move follows a a pair of high-profile scandals for the Marine Corps. Last year, hundreds of Marines were investigated after independent journalist Thomas Brennan reported they were sharing nude photos of their colleagues without permission within a Facebook group called Marines United. And just this month, a Marine was separated after participating in last year's deadly "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

"As a result of both Marines United and Charlottesville, we included the additional categories of wrongful distribution or broadcasting of an intimate image and dissident and protest activity (including supremacist activity) to ensure Marine Corps policy was clear on these destructive behaviors," said Yvonne Carlock, a spokeswoman for Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs.

Those types of behaviors erode the trust and cohesion essential to the Marine Corps team and are incompatible with the service's core values, added Maj. Craig Thomas, also with Manpower and Reserve Affairs.

And it's not just those committing inappropriate acts that will be held accountable. Anyone who looks the other way or fails to follow up on reports of bad behavior could be punished too.

"This order also clearly articulates all Marines and sailors who see or hear about these behaviors and do nothing about them are condoning such conduct," Thomas told Military.com. "Leaders who condone prohibited activities and conduct will be held accountable for their actions and/or inactions."

The Marine Corps' consolidated order follows a Defense Department-wide directive to address harassment and bullying across the military. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis recently put out a message to the entire force calling on service members to be more disciplined.

The U.S. military must have better unit and individual discipline than the enemy, he wrote. And leaders need to better coach those making mistakes, he added.

"Enforcing standards is a critical component of making our force more lethal," Mattis said in the message. "Our leaders must uphold proven standards. They should know the difference between a mistake and a lack of discipline. ... We must not tolerate or ignore lapses in discipline, for our enemies will benefit if we do not correct and appropriately punish substandard conduct."

Aside from boosting accountability, the Marine Corps order also improves support for victims and addresses training and education for all Marines, Carlock said. That includes instruction for commanders who must investigate reports of wrongdoing.

"The order reaffirms the Marine Corps' commitment to maintaining a culture of dignity, respect, and trust in which all members of the organization are afforded equal opportunity to achieve their full potential based solely upon individual merit, fitness, intellect and ability," Carlock said.

The order lays out the ways by which Marines can report prohibited activities, including avenues that allow them to remain anonymous.

The new policy could also have the added benefit of lightening Marines' annual training loads, since it consolidates several topics that used to require their own instructional units. It's not immediately clear how much time will be saved through the streamlined approach since formal training is still in the early stages of development, Carlock said. But, she added, it stands to reason that "there will be some efficiencies gained."

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ginaaharkins.

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