Two Years After Nude Photo Scandal, Marines Assess Gender Issues in the Corps

Marines from Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), School of Infantry-East (SOI-E) patrol their way to an objective during the Infantry Integrated Field Training Exercise aboard Camp Geiger, North Carolina, Nov. 15, 2013. Delta company is the first company at ITB with female students as part of a measured, deliberate and responsible collection of data on the performance of female Marines when executing existing infantry tasks and training events, the Marine Corps is soliciting entry-level female
Marines from Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), School of Infantry-East (SOI-E) patrol their way to an objective during the Infantry Integrated Field Training Exercise aboard Camp Geiger, North Carolina, Nov. 15, 2013. Delta company is the first company at ITB with female students as part of a measured, deliberate and responsible collection of data on the performance of female Marines when executing existing infantry tasks and training events, the Marine Corps is soliciting entry-level female Marine volunteers to attend the eight-week basic infantryman and infantry rifleman training courses at ITB. (Paul S. Mancuso /U. S. Marine Corps)

New Marine Corps survey data could give leaders a glimpse into whether women and others feel protected from discrimination two years after a nude-photo scandal exposed the way some men were mistreating their female colleagues.

Marines across the ranks said their service is no better or worse than those in the civilian job sector at dealing with issues such as gender relations, freedom from harassment, discrimination and fair performance evaluation. That's according to results from the Fiscal 2018 Exit and Milestone Longitudinal Survey (EMLS), which Marines are asked to take at different stages in their careers.

"[This was] fairly interesting given our past few years with regard to gender relations," said Maj. Kerry Hogan, the Marine Corps' first-ever survey officer, who created the EMLS. "So this is something that we would definitely want to look at for next year and the year after to see if there's a shift in that perception."

In 2017, top Marine Corps leaders were forced to address a troubling report about a group called Marines United that shared photos of female troops online without their permission. The scandal highlighted a disturbing trend of female Marines being disrespected by men in the ranks.

Related: 'Treated like Second-Class Citizens': Female Marine Reflects on Her Career

The Marine Corps also continues to grapple with having the military's worst record of sexual assaults against women, with an incidence rate of nearly 11%.

Hogan stressed that the survey doesn't offer a full glimpse into the command climate across the Marine Corps, but rather a snapshot of how Marines feel about certain issues at a given point in time and in their careers.

But it could indicate that Marines don't feel leaders are doing any better than anyone else when it comes to combating the problems, despite years of reforms. Following the scandal, the Corps created a task force to identify gender-related problems leading to a breakdown in unit cohesion or good order.

Hogan said Marine officials will now keep an eye on these categories as more survey data trickles in over the coming years to see whether there's a trend specific within certain ranks or groups of Marines.

"Is there a distinct difference in responses for males versus females would ... probably [be] the first question," Hogan said. "And if not, then how about when looking at freedom from harassment or freedom from discrimination ... by [groups] of ranks."

One year's worth of data from the Exit and Milestone Longitudinal Survey isn't going to affect policy change. Hogan said it'll take at least three years of survey data to establish a trend.

Since fiscal 2018 was the first time Marines completed the new survey, she said the data was "very preliminary."

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

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