Male Marines graduate from historically all-female boot camp training battalion for first time

Marine Corps recruits Parris Island
US Marines with Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, graduate recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina, March 26 2021.

  • Four male platoons recently graduated from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island as part of the 4th Recruit Training Battalion.
  • Until now, that battalion only trained women, and the change shows that all recruits are held to the same standards, the Corps said.
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Four male platoons graduated from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina as part of a battalion that – until now – has trained only women.

Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, completed boot camp with four male and two female platoons, the Marine Corps announced Wednesday. Coed companies have been training at Parris Island since 2019, but this was the first time men have been assigned to 4th Recruit Training Battalion.

It was also the first time male drill instructors were assigned to the historically all-female battalion.

Marine recruits training at Parris Island were for decades segregated by gender, with women traditionally assigned solely to 4th Recruit Training Battalion. Papa Company completed their training and graduated from boot camp March 26.

The Marine Corps has since begun training Parris Island’s 15th coed company, said Capt. Bryan McDonnell, a spokesman at the depot.

Capt. Adan Rivera, the company commander, said in a Marine Corps news release that assigning men to 4th Battalion demonstrates that recruits are held to the same standards, regardless of gender.

When a male recruit was told he’d be making history after being assigned to 4th Battalion, he said he didn’t think “anybody grasped what was going on.”

“We’re here to train, let’s train,” he said in the release.

Both female and male recruits have now been assigned to all four of Parris Island’s recruit training battalions.

McDonnell said the 4th Recruit Training Battalion squad bay is smaller than some of the newer living facilities at Parris Island. The Marine Corps tends to see more recruits reporting to boot camp in the summer months following high-school graduations.

With fewer arriving in the winter months, McDonnell said they had the right number of male and female trainees to assign them to that battalion.

Men and women training in coed companies live in the same barracks, but have separate squad bays with different sleeping and bathing facilities. Training that occurs outside the squad bays is done together.

Platoons are still assigned drill instructors of the same gender as their recruits.

The men with 4th Battalion aren’t the only Marine recruits to make history at boot camp this year. Women are currently training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in coed companies for the first time in that base’s 100-year history.

The 2020 defense authorization bill directed the Marine Corps to make both of its entry-level training sites coed. The service was given five years to make training coed at Parris Island and eight years at San Diego.

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

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Video puts you in the cockpit of a Navy Prowler on a low-level flight through the Cascade Mountains

EA-6B Prowler
An EA-6B Prowler out of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, March 1, 2016.

  • This is what it looks like to fly an EA-6B Prowler on the Visual Route 1355 low-level military training route in Washington state.
  • VR 1355 is known as the “million-dollar ride” for its scenic views and the fun and “aggressive” flying that can be done on it.
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The last US Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler squadron, Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 2 (VMAQ-2), was formally deactivated in March 2019, when the last two jets, 162230/CY-02 and 162228/CY-04, took part in a sundown ceremony that also included flying in formation over Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina.

All the US Navy and Marines Prowler squadrons had already been deactivated since then (the last ones being all USMC units: VMAQ-1, in May 2016, VMAQ-4 in June 2017 and VMAQ-3 in May 2018).

The EA-6B was an iconic aircraft born out of military requirements during the Vietnam War. It entered service in 1971 and 170 aircraft were built before the production was terminated in 1991. For more than four decades, the Prowler was “at the forefront of military electronic warfare allowing high-profile air combat missions.”

The EA-6B’s last deployment, in 2018, was carried out by VMAQ-2 to support of Operation Resolute Support and Freedom’s Sentinel, in Afghanistan, as well as Operation Inherent Resolve, in Iraq and Syria.

But, overall, the Prowler deployed more than 70 times to support every major combat operation, including those in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Serbia.

EA 6B Refuel

While not deployed, the type carried out stateside training sorties, practicing ground-attack support missions, disruption of enemy electromagnetic activity and tactical electronic intelligence.

While most of the latest mission profiles saw the aircraft operate at medium and high altitude, the Prowler’s aircrews regularly flew low-level training missions too.

The footage in this post was taken in 2010 by a user who, based on the other videos posted on his Youtube channel, flew with the US Navy’s VAQ-139 “Cougars.”

The clip is particularly interesting as it shows, from the front cockpit, an EA-6B flying low level along VR-1355, one of the low-level routes running through national parks in the Cascade Mountains.

As we explained in a post about a photo of an EA-18G taken there, the Visual Route 1355 is colloquially called the “million-dollar ride” for both the scenic views and the fun and “aggressive” flying that can be done through the valleys.

Thanks to the video below, now you can also get an idea of what it looked like to fly the route at low level in the Prowler.

While the footage is outstanding, I’m pretty sure it will also remind someone the famous incident that occurred to an EA-6B in Italy in 1998.

On February 3, 1998, EA-6B Prowler #163045/CY-02, from VMAQ-2, deployed at Aviano Air Base, in northeastern Italy, for the Balkans crisis, using radio callsign “EASY 01” and flying a low-level route cut a cable supporting a cable car of an aerial lift, near Cavalese, a ski resort in the Dolomites. Twenty people died when the cabin plunged over 260 feet and crashed on the ground in what is also known as the “Cavalese cable car disaster” or “Strage del Cermis.”

At 15:13 LT, when the aircraft struck the cables supporting the cable car the aircraft was flying at a speed of 540 mph (870 km/h) and at an altitude of between 260 and 330 feet (80 and 100 m) in a narrow valley between the mountains.

While the aircraft had wing and tail damage, it was able to return to Aviano.

The subsequent investigation found that the EA-6B was flying too low and against regulations. Initially, all four men on the plane were charged, but only the pilot, Capt. Richard J. Ashby, and his navigator, Capt. Joseph Schweitzer, actually faced trial (that took place at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina), charged with 20 counts of involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide.

At the end of the first trial, the pilot was acquitted on all charges relating to the disaster (charges which were dropped for the navigator too) in a verdict that caused shock and resentment in Italy generating an upsurge of anti-American feeling.

During the trial it emerged that the US Marine Corps aircrews used obsolete US military maps that, unlike local ones, did not show the cables, and were not aware of altitude regulations concerning low-level flying.

The two Marines were court-martialed a second time when it became evident they had destroyed a videotape filmed on the day of the incident. Eventually, Capts. Ashby and Schweitzer were found guilty in May 1999; both were dismissed from the service and Ashby received a six-month prison term. Families were eventually compensated 1.9M USD per victim.

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Marines at a major California military base are being investigated over missing explosives and ammo

Camp Pendleton Marine Camp Training
The main gate at Camp Pendleton, California.

  • Marines in California are being investigated for possible ties to missing explosives and ammunition.
  • Few details have been released, but a sergeant faces charges, and another service member is awaiting a federal hearing.
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Marines at a Southern California military base are being investigated for possible ties to missing explosives and ammunition.

A sergeant at Camp Pendleton is in custody and facing charges, and another service member is awaiting a federal hearing in connection to the case, said 2nd Lt. Kyle McGuire, a spokesman for 1st Marine Division.

Few details have been made public about the investigation, which McGuire said is unrelated to 10 pounds of C-4 explosives that disappeared from another California base – Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms – last month.

Sgt. Gunnar Naughton, with 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, currently is confined to the brig, McGuire said. Naughton faced an Article 32 fact-finding hearing on March 19 and has been charged with larceny and military property-related offenses, he added.

Charges also have been preferred against a second member of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, but an Article 32 hearing has not yet been scheduled. The Marine Corps declined to provide a list of the charges or any personal information prior to the hearing.

“Naval Criminal Investigative Service is continuing their investigation into this matter, and I’m therefore unable to provide additional information,” McGuire said.

Marine Corps supplies gear Camp Pendleton
US Marines receive and return gear at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California, January 7, 2019.

ABC 10News in San Diego, citing an unnamed source, reported that at least five reconnaissance Marines at Camp Pendleton are under investigation for possible ties to the explosives, and thousands of rounds of military-grade ammunition were found to be missing at their base.

One Marine, the outlet reported, allegedly tried to sell the ammo online, but was caught “in a sting operation that was set up by federal agents.”

A spokesman at NCIS declined to provide any details about the missing materials or reported sting operation.

“Out of respect for the investigative process, NCIS does not comment on ongoing investigations,” Jeff Houston said.

Bethany Payton-O’Brien, a San Diego-based attorney, told ABC 10News she’s representing a staff sergeant who let another Marine rent space on his land for a trailer. The location was later raided, she told the station.

Payton-O’Brien told Military.com her client, Staff Sgt. Alexander Czub, was released from the brig on March 4 after serving a month in pretrial confinement. Czub has not been charged with any offenses relating to the missing ammunition or explosives at Camp Pendleton, she added.

“My client is not connected with the alleged conspiracy involving … Naughton or the attempted selling of government ammunition by [another Marine],” she said. “Based on the investigation provided to us so far by the government, there appears to be no connection between the 29 Palms case and Camp Pendleton Marines. The government has still not provided us with all evidence in this case despite numerous requests.”

McGuire said no other hearing or trial dates have been set in connection to the case. The preliminary hearing officer for Naughton’s Article 32 must review his case and make a recommendation to the convening authority regarding the charges. The convening authority on the case, or the officer overseeing the prosecutions, is Maj. Gen. Roger Turner Jr., 1st Marine Division’s commanding general.

Those steps will determine whether the case proceeds to court-martial.

“It is not uncommon for charges to change between an Article 32 hearing and subsequent court-martial,” McGuire added.

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

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Marine Corps gets rid of men’s-only allowance for underwater after audit finds inequities in uniform costs

camouflage uniforms marines
  • The Marine Corps has removed an allowance for underwear that was only given to men and adding a new allowance for women’s dress shoes.
  • The changes come after an audit that revealed systemic inequities in clothing and uniform costs for male and female service members.
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The Marine Corps has removed a clothing replacement allowance for underwear that was only allotted to men and added a new replacement allowance for female dress pumps following an audit of policy.

A Government Accountability Office report released this month revealed systemic inequities in out-of-pocket clothing and uniform costs for male and female service members – a reality colloquially known as the “Pink Tax.”

The watchdog organization found that some enlisted women paid more than $8,000 out of pocket over the course of a career for clothing, while some men actually ended up with allowance overages they could pocket. The disparity, the GAO found, was largely the result of the higher costs of some women’s uniform items, and costs of essentials not included in clothing calculations that were higher across the board for women.

The investigation also prompted the individual military services to review their own policies and calculations. For the Marine Corps, this resulted in the discovery of inequity and a move to change.

“Beginning in fiscal year 2021, enlisted [Marine] males will no longer receive an annualized standard cash clothing replacement allowance for underwear, according to the officials,” GAO officials wrote in their report. “Currently, males receive an annualized standard cash clothing replacement allowance for their underwear, but females do not.”

Women Marine Karate
Recruits watch a Marine Corps Martial Arts demonstration, July 21, 2011.

The report added that there had been no annualized replacement allowance for female Marines’ dress pumps, even though they were listed as a required uniform item. Going forward, it said, there would be an additional replacement allowance, apart from the current $50 one-time allotment.

“According to officials, this was an oversight and the Marine Corps plans to fix this to ensure female enlisted service members receive an annualized standard cash clothing allowance for dress pumps,” GAO officials wrote.

A spokesman for the Marine Corps Uniform Board and Marine Corps Installations and Logistics, Master Sgt. Andrew Pendracki, told Military.com via email that underwear was issued to Marines in their initial sea bag and was considered a personal item to be purchased at the individual’s expense following recruit training.

“During the GAO audit, it was noted that male Marines were receiving an annual replacement allowance to maintain drawers as late as [fiscal year 2020],” he said. “A review of past annual Minimum Requirement Lists (MRL) indicated that the drawers have not been on the MRL for at least 20 years and, as such, a clothing replacement allowance should not have been paid.”

A similar allowance did not exist for female Marines.

The annualized line item for men’s underwear is not much: 72 cents, Pendracki said. It will be removed in the fiscal 2022 MRL, he noted.

The new annualized allowance for women’s dress pumps may make a more substantial difference to Marines’ wallets: Female Marines will now get $16.66 per year to maintain and replace their dress shoes.

In the GAO report, officials emphasized that the root issue was equity: equal pay for equal work.

“The equity principle also calls for the concept of equal pay for substantially equal work under the same general working conditions,” the report states. ” … Specifically, comparability refers to the specific items of basic pay, basic pay-related items, allowances, and benefits.”

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

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The messy way the Marines joined US Special Operations Command

Marine Corps Special Operations MARSOC parachute
A Marine with 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion jumps from a KC-130J Hercules over North Carolina, Sept. 12, 2012.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of Marine Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC).

Created on February 24, 2006, MARSOC is the Marine Corps’ component of US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and is composed of the Marine Raider Regiment, Marine Raider Support Group, and Marine Raider Training Center.

Marine Raiders, who trace their roots to World War II, primarily focus on direct action, such as ambushes and raids, as well as special reconnaissance and foreign internal defense – the training and advising of partner forces – but they can also conduct unconventional warfare (which primarily means supporting proxy forces) and counterterrorism operations, all with a varying degree of effectiveness.

MARSOC was created to fill what the Pentagon prudently saw as a future gap in special-operations forces. From the start, the US military effort in the Global War on Terror indicated that it would heavily rely on special-operations units.

The frantic insurgency in Iraq, the complicated fight in Afghanistan, and the various hotspots worldwide proved correct those who called for more commandos.

But disputes around MARSOC’s creation linger for the command and could endanger its future.

Every Marine is Special’

Marine Corps Special Operations MARSOC
Marines during Phase I of MARSOC’s Assessment and Selection course at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, January 30, 2015.

After Operation Eagle Claw, the failed rescue of American hostages in Iran in 1980, the Pentagon ordered the creation of a dedicated special-operations command for special-operations units from across the services.

Established in 1987, US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) brought together special-operations units such as the Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and Air Force Special Tactics Squadrons. Each service was invited to join with its special-operations units, but the Marine Corps turned down the offer.

The Marines already had some special-operations units, namely Marine Recon and Force Recon, which focused on special reconnaissance and direct action. They were considered special-operations units by everyone but the Corps, which saw them as specialized infantry rather than commandos, a reflection of the “Every Marine is special” mindset prevalent in the Marine Corps since its inception.

SOCOM and the Marine Corps went their separate ways until the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Having seen the tactical and strategic value of special-operations units in the early days of the Global War on Terror, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld pushed for more commandos.

The Marine Corps begrudgingly created the Marine Corps Special Operations Command Detachment (Det One) in late 2002 as a study unit to see if Marines could fill special-operations roles.

Marine Corps JTAC Navy MH-60S helicopter
A Joint Terminal Attack Controller with MARSOC communicates with a Navy MH-60S helicopter during training at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada, April 7, 2011.

However, since Reconnaissance Marines were already widely seen as a special-operations unit, or its Marine equivalent, the Corps’ decision to set up Det One for further study, rather than incorporating Marines into SOCOM right away, is viewed by many as an attempt to stall the process until Pentagon leadership moved on or lost interest.

“The early [Det One] years were tough. In the beginning, we didn’t have jack shit. No weapons, no ammo, no ranges, no mission, no nothing. Both the Corps and SOCOM shunned us, while the SEALs [Naval Special Warfare Command] wanted to control us. We were the red-headed stepchild,” a former Reconnaissance Marine and Marine Raider told Insider.

Neither SOCOM nor the Marine Corps wanted a Marine special-operations command, but for different reasons.

SOCOM believed that the Marine Corps had gotten its chance to “operate” back in 1987; the Marine Corps believed it could do its own special-operations thing as good or even better than SOCOM and didn’t want to lose quality Marines.

“What we did have, however, was a solid bunch of guys, about 100 operators and support Marines. All of them were as solid as they come because the leadership had handpicked them. We’re talking senior Recon men with years of experience and numerous deployments under their belts. Same goes for the support and intel guys. Top-notch Marines on their respective fields who could probably outperform grunts on basic infantry skills because they went through much of our training,” the former Recon Marine and Raider added.

Always faithful, always forward

Marine Corps Special Operations MARSOC
Maj. Gen. James F. Glynn, commander of MARSOC, speaks to MARSOC personnel during a ceremony at Camp Lejeune, February 22, 2021.

Det One was a success and led to the creation of MARSOC in 2006. The 1st and 2nd Force Recon Battalions were disbanded, with most of their operators going to the newly established 1st and 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalions, with a third Raider battalion added later.

During the Global War on Terror, MARSOC contributed to the fight, but as the wars concluded or drew down, Marine Raiders have found themselves competing for missions and funds with units such as the Army Special Forces Regiment or the SEAL Teams.

Since MARSOC is the new kid on the block, it tends to be relegated to less active areas of operations – ironically, however, these regions can get quite busy, and Marine Raiders have participated in some neat operations, such the response to al-Shabab’s attack on the Kenyan military base at Manda Bay in January 2020.

Some have called for MARSOC’s deactivation, citing the Corps’ limited resources and demands elsewhere. For now, it seems that the 15-year-old MARSOC will make it into adulthood. Judging from the past, that future may be rocky.

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.

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6 reasons the Battle of Iwo Jima is so important to US Marines

iwo jima marines
Marines on the beach at Iwo Jima.

No historical account of World War II would be complete without covering the Battle of Iwo Jima.

At first glance, it seems similar to many other battles that happened late in the Pacific War: American troops fiercely fought their way through booby traps, Banzai charges and surprise attacks while stalwart dug-in Japanese defenders struggled against overwhelming US power in the air, on land and by sea.

For the United States Marine Corps, however, the Battle of Iwo Jima was more than one more island in a string of battles in an island-hopping campaign. The Pacific War was one of the most brutal in the history of mankind, and nowhere was that more apparent than on Iwo Jima in February 1945.

After three years of fighting, US troops didn’t know the end was near for the Japanese Empire. For them, every island was part of the preparation they needed to invade mainland Japan.

The 36-day fight for Iwo Jima led Adm. Chester Nimitz to give the now-immortal praise, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

Here are six reasons why the battle is so important to Marines:

1. It was the first invasion of the Japanese Home Islands

Iwo Jima 3
Naval craft maneuver during the invasion of Iwo Jima, February 19, 1945.

The Japanese Empire controlled many islands in the Pacific area. Saipan, Peleliu and other islands were either sold to Japan after World War I or it was given control of them by the League of Nations. Then, it started invading others.

Iwo Jima was different. Though technically far from the Japanese Home Islands, it is considered to be part of Tokyo and is administered as part of its subprefecture.

After three years of taking control of islands previously captured by the Japanese, the Marines were finally taking part of the Japanese capital.

2. Iwo Jima was strategically necessary for the United States’ war effort

Iwo Jima 7
US Marine Corps amtracs and medium tanks bogged down in the soft black volcanic ash of Iwo Jima, February, 1945.

Taking the island meant more than a symbolic capture of the Japanese homeland.

It meant the US could launch bombing runs from Iwo Jima’s strategic airfields, as the tiny island was directly under the flight path of B-29 Superfortresses from Guam, Saipan and the Mariana Islands.

Now, the Army Air Forces would be able to make bombing runs without a Japanese garrison at Iwo Jima warning the mainland about the danger to come. It also meant American bombers could fly over Japan with fighter escorts.

3. It was one of the bloodiest battles in the history of the Marine Corps.

Iwo Jima 9
US Marines on the beach inch their way up a sand dune toward Mount Suribachi during the initial invasion of Iwo Jima, February, 19, 1945.

Iwo Jima is a small island, covering roughly 8 square kilometers. It was defended by 20,000 Japanese soldiers who spent a year digging in, creating miles of tunnels beneath the volcanic rock, and who were ready to fight to the last man.

When the battle was over, 6,800 Americans were dead and a further 26,000 wounded or missing. This means 850 Americans died for every square mile of the island fortress. Only 216 Japanese troops were taken prisoner.

4. More gallantry was on display at Iwo Jima than any other battle before or since

Iwo Jima 14
Marines on Iwo Jima stand by as Japanese soldiers in a pillbox are hit with liquid fire, February 27, 1945.

Iwo Jima saw more Medals of Honor awarded for actions there than any other single battle in American history.

A total of 27 were awarded, 22 to Marines and five to Navy Corpsmen. In all of World War II, only 81 Marines and 57 sailors were awarded the medal.

To put it in a statistical perspective, 20% of all WWII Navy and Marine Corps Medals of Honor were earned at Iwo Jima.

5. US Marines were Marines and nothing else on Iwo Jima

Iwo Jima 15
Two dead US Marines, covered by ponchos, and four Japanese soldiers lie within a few yards of each other on Iwo Jima, February 28, 1945.

The US has seen significant problems with race relations in its history. And though the armed forces weren’t fully integrated until 1948, the US military has always been on the forefront of racial and gender integration. The Marines at Iwo Jima came from every background.

While African Americans were still not allowed on frontline duty because of segregation, they piloted amphibious trucks full of White and Latino Marines to the beaches at Iwo Jima, moved ammunition and supplies to the front, buried the dead and fought off surprise attacks from Japanese defenders. Navajo Code Talkers were instrumental in taking the island. They were all Marines.

6. The iconic flag-raising became the symbol for all Marines who died in service

iwo jima
US Marines raise the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima, February 23, 1945.

Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal’s photo of Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi is perhaps one of the best-known war photos ever taken.

Raising the American flag at the island’s highest point sent a clear message to both the Marines below and the Japanese defenders. In the years that followed, the image took on a more important role.

It soon became the symbol of the Marine Corps itself. When the Marine Corps Memorial was dedicated in 1954, it was that image that became the symbol of the Corps’ spirit, dedicated to every Marine who gave their life in service to the United States.

– Blake Stilwell is a former airman who just did his best to honor the Marines who fought and died at Iwo Jima. He can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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Nearly 90% of military hazing complaints come from the Marine Corps

Drill Instructor Yelling Marine Corps
  • An annual report on hazing in the military shows that the Marine Corps had the lion’s share of hazing complaints and substantiated hazing incidents.
  • The data is a troubling snapshot taken shortly after the Marines faced national scrutiny over hazing episodes at boot camp at Parris Island in┬áSouth Carolina.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

A year after a Marine drill instructor was sentenced to 10 years behind bars for hazing Muslim recruits, throwing one in an industrial dryer and figuring in another’s death, data shows that nearly nine out of 10 hazing reports in the military still came from within the Corps.

An annual report on hazing within the military, obtained via a public-records request, shows that the Marine Corps, the smallest Defense Department service by population with the exception of Space Force, owns the lion’s share of hazing complaints and substantiated hazing incidents. The data, from fiscal year 2018, shows that 256 of 291 total hazing complaints that year, more than 88%, were made in the Corps, and 91 of 102 substantiated hazing incidents took place among Marines.

The Navy was a distant second, with 17 complaints and 10 substantiated incidents; then the Army, with 13 complaints, none substantiated; and finally the Air Force, with five complaints, one substantiated. At the time of the reporting, 71 total complaints had been found unsubstantiated, 110 were pending a decision and eight were inconclusive or unknown.

The data, released to Military.com this month, provides what could be a troubling snapshot taken shortly after the Marines faced national scrutiny over hazing episodes at boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina.

Recruit Raheel Siddiqui reportedly jumped to his own death in 2016 from the third floor of a Parris Island building after abuse at the hands of a drill instructor, who received 10 years for maltreatment and other crimes at a Parris Island court-martial. Other Marines who trained recruits were found to have inflicted chemical burns requiring skin grafts – the result of forced physical training on a bleach-covered floor – and ordered naked trainees to run back and forth, then jam together against the walls of a shower.

In all, eight drill instructors faced some level of punishment over the Parris Island hazing scandal amid national attention, and investigations resulted in a slew of recommendations for change. And that same year, a crackdown on hazing within 1st Marine Division in California resulted in at least 18 Marines getting kicked out of the Corps, and 30 spending time in the brig.

Amid all that, the 2018 data seems jarring.

But some say the information paints a more complicated picture: one of a service that is aggressively tracking abusive behavior while others overlook the problem.

New accountability measures

The 2018 report is the first-ever Pentagon-wide survey of hazing. It was mandated by then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis earlier the same year as part of a sweeping new policy implemented to deter harassment and abusive behavior in every form within the ranks. Mattis’ order, building on a previous 2015 memo from then-Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, set a December 31, 2018, deadline for services to turn over the first 18 months of hazing data they’d collected, and required annual reports to follow.

The order also set a definition for hazing: a “form of harassment that … physically or psychologically injures, or creates a risk of physical or psychological injury … for the purpose of: initiation into, admission into, affiliation with, change in status or position within, or a condition for continued membership in any military or DoD civilian organization.”

The newly obtained report does not contain details on specific hazing incidents or complaints, but does break substantiated episodes into categories: physical, psychological, written, verbal and nonverbal.

In the Marine Corps, 60% of hazing incidents were physical and 32% verbal, with the remainder nonverbal. The other services had a similar breakdown; only the Navy had substantiated episodes of psychological hazing, with six incidents.

While the report doesn’t indicate the origin of hazing complaints or the dates they were made, it does contain some information on when hazing happens and who it happens to.

Unsurprisingly, almost all substantiated hazing happened on duty in 2018. Nearly 100% of military hazing victims were junior enlisted service members, in the ranks of E-4 and below and, with few exceptions, under the age of 25. While most of the perpetrators were also junior enlisted, some 20% were E-5s and E-6s, and eight offenders were senior enlisted troops or junior officers.

Within the entire Defense Department, only eight of the troops who reported being hazed were female.

Data shortfalls

5550056
Recruits drill at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.

While the majority of hazing offenders and complainants were white, the data does fall somewhat short. There’s no indication of the racial breakdown of victims and offenders in specific incidents, or what conditions lead to certain kinds of hazing. There’s no information, either, to indicate the severity of hazing incidents or their short- and long-term impact on victims.

What does seem evident, though, is that the 2018 data regarding the ratio of hazing reports by service is not an anomaly. A data sketch from fiscal 2017 also obtained by Military.com shows 233 out of 299 hazing reports that year came from the Marine Corps, and 109 out of 136 substantiated incidents occurred in that service.

While DoD did not release fiscal 2019 data, and a fiscal 2020 report has not yet been provided to the services, Marine Corps officials did provide data showing that reports of hazing decreased markedly within the service in 2019. That year, there were 188 total complaints in the Corps, and 47 substantiated hazing cases, officials said.

“Hazing has no place in a disciplined and professional military force and is not tolerated in any form in the Marine Corps. Hazing degrades our warfighting capabilities by destroying our Marines’ confidence and the trust they place in their fellow Marines and in their leadership. All complaints of hazing are taken seriously,” Yvonne Carlock, a spokeswoman for Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs, told Military.com.

Carlock added that all hazing complaints are tracked “from the initial complaint/allegation through adjudication” and that the service stresses bystander intervention and urges Marines and sailors to report all hazing they observe.

A 2015 study by the Rand Corporation did find that the Marine Corps was the most consistent of any service apart from the Coast Guard at providing specific anti-hazing training and offering additional training at various career intervals, with annual refreshers. Gaps were still present at that point, however; the report found anti-hazing instruction in the Corps was lecture-only and lacked group discussion and structured assessment.

But the grim wake-up calls from the recent high-profile hazing incidents may mean the Marines track the issue better and more consistently than other services. That’s the contention of Rep. Judy Chu, a California Democrat who has made it a priority to end military hazing and increase accountability.

Chu’s nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Harry Lew, took his own life during a deployment to Afghanistan in 2011 following hazing by his peers. Three Marines faced criminal charges in the wake of his death; two were acquitted and one was sentenced to 30 days in a plea agreement.

“The real truth is that hazing in the military is still obscured by bad and incomplete data,” Chu told Military.com in a February 5 statement. She cited a Government Accountability Office report she had required showing that, as of early 2016, the Corps alone consistently tracked both substantiated and unsubstantiated hazing reports.

“This doesn’t mean that the Marines are more likely to have a hazing problem, but that the other branches fail to report theirs,” she said in the statement. “Still, what this troubling data reveals is that hazing and disunity are still pervasive problems in our military, which is bad for our national security and the health and safety of the men and women in uniform who risk everything for us.”

Cultural Influences

It’s likely, however, that culture also plays a role in the picture the data shows. The Marine Corps has the youngest average age of any service, the most male and the most junior in rank. The service prides itself on being the most physically demanding, as well, and many recruits arrive at boot camp with a perception of the Corps informed by films like “Full Metal Jacket” and “A Few Good Men” – movies in which brutal Marine Corps hazing incidents are main plot points.

In a 2020 law review article in the Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal, authors Gregory S. Parks and Jasmine Burgess explore the psychological, cultural and organizational causes of military hazing.

In one notional example underscoring their research, they profile “Darrius Ima,” a Marine Corps drill instructor who himself was hazed as a recruit and believes he’s justified in passing down the tradition.

“Darrius believes, not only that there is a low probability of him being caught and reprimanded for the hazing but also that, and erroneously so, that the majority of the Marines community values hazing,” the authors write. ” … In sum, Darrius is morally disengaged around the issue of hazing. He tries to justify his conduct by offering a purely positive rationale for hazing – e.g., that it builds bonds.”

Drill Instructor Yelling Marine Corps

Parks, a professor of law at Wake Forest University and expert on all kinds of hazing who spoke to Military.com February 5, said changing a cultural perspective on an issue such as hazing can be a lengthy process.

“Organizational culture is crucial,” he said. “What are the dynamics at play within an organization over the course of maybe decades or generations, and why is it hard to disentangle that. It makes it very difficult to swim upstream and buck the system when you receive a lot of critical feedback from peers.”

He added that the military, and particularly the Marine Corps, which demands and prizes high levels of physical prowess and mental toughness, may be more prone to training and rituals that cross the line into hazing.

“There are these physical components, but there’s also the psychological aspect of putting people through the paces,” he said. “It’s probably easier to amplify that.”

The newly obtained data does indicate that being found to have hazed a peer or subordinate will affect a service member’s career, even if it doesn’t end it. For fiscal 2018, 100% of substantiated hazing offenders received some sort of discipline.

In the Marine Corps, 174 perpetrators received a total of 365 corrective or disciplinary actions. One-third of all disciplinary actions for Marines were at the administrative level, and a little more than half consisted of non-judicial punishment. Unit-level punishments are shielded from public release, and therefore difficult to track.

Some 44 Marines faced hazing-related charges at various levels of court-martial; the Corps was the only service to send anyone to court-martial over hazing.

“We continue to train and educate all Marines and instill in them that these behaviors are inconsistent with our core values and we will hold perpetrators accountable,” Carlock, the Marine Corps spokeswoman, told Military.com. “A failure to act and respond is not only inconsistent with who we are but it also degrades our traditions, threatens our cohesion and morale, and detracts from mission accomplishment.”

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

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The Marines are turning to suppressors to make their rifles quieter and their operations more lethal

Marine Corps rifle suppressor
A US Marine uses a suppressor during training at Twentynine Palms, California, October 21, 2016.

  • The US Marine Corps plans to distribute 30,000 suppressors to its infantry, reconnaissance, and special-operations forces by 2023.
  • Suppressors are designed to decrease sound and muzzle flash when a round is fired. For Marines, that means better concealment, better communications, and, in the long-term, potentially less hearing loss.
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The US Marine Corps is set to distribute 30,000 suppressors to its infantry, reconnaissance, and special operations forces by 2023.

In 2015, the Marines began a two-year study in an effort to prove the value and benefit that suppressors could have throughout the force. Suppressors, often referred to as silencers, are designed to decrease sound and muzzle flash when a round is fired.

Since suppressors minimize muzzle flash, they are ideal for nighttime operations. One benefit is concealment: With minimal flash, it’s more difficult for the enemy to zero in on one’s position. Another benefit is that Marines can maintain their night vision and not become disoriented.

For operations in general, suppressors allow for better communications between Marines and minimize confusion during a firefight.

In a press release, the Marine Corps Systems Command infantry weapon officer Chief Warrant Officer David Tomlinson said, “I would say the most important thing the suppressor does is allow for better inter-squad, inter-platoon communication. It allows the operators to communicate laterally up and down the line during a [firefight].”

Marine Corps rifle suppressor
A US Marine uses a suppressor during training at Twentynine Palms, California, October 21, 2016.

Another obvious plus for the suppressors is that they minimize hearing loss for active-duty and future veterans.

Maj. Mike Brisker, weapons product manager in the Marine Corps Systems Command, pointed out, “In the big picture, the VA pays out a lot in hearing loss claims. We’d like Marines to be able to continue to hear for many years even after they leave the service. These suppressors have that benefit as well.”

Part of the two-year study was one experiment in 2016 that convinced the Marines that suppressors were the way of the future for the Corps.

Brisker said, “The positive feedback from that experiment was the primary driving force behind procuring suppressors. We’ve had a few limited user experiments with various units since that time, and all of those events generated positive reviews of the capability.”

The suppressors will be used on M4s, M4A1s, and M27s. On average, when these weapons are fired, they release a sound intensity of 140-165 decibels. When a suppressor is applied, the sound level is decreased t0 around 132 decibels.

While this doesn’t sound like a huge decrease, decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale. Therefore, a suppressed weapon’s sound intensity is a thousand times less compared to that of an unsuppressed one.

The Marine Corps is also looking at weapon options that integrate the suppressor into the barrel, which would keep the weapon shorter since a conventional suppressor adds eight to 12 inches in length.

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A Marine got a new jaw made out of a chunk of his own leg bone

Marine jaw denture dentist surgery
A patient’s prosthetic denture and oral cavity are inspected about six weeks after jaw replacement surgery December 29, 2020.

  • A Marine in California underwent a new kind of surgery to replace a benign tumor in his jaw using a reconstructed jaw made out of one of his leg bones and with 3D-printed teeth.
  • Previously, such a surgery would take multiple surgeries and years of recovery, but those new techniques and technology mean the Marine will return to duty after just one surgery and a few months of recovery.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A lucky Marine made military medical history by becoming the first service member to receive a reconstructed jaw made out of one of his leg bones, complete with 3D-printed teeth, all in one surgery.

Lance Cpl. Jaden Murry, assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 7 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California, was diagnosed with an aggressive but benign tumor in his lower jaw about a year ago.

Usually, it would take multiple surgeries and years of recovery to come back from that, but new techniques and technology mean that Murry will return to duty after just one surgery and a few months of recovery.

“In terms of actual downtime away from his unit, we’re expecting Murry to be out for only eight to 10 weeks, compared to years with the previous reconstructive techniques,” said Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Hammer, the surgeon who performed the procedure at Naval Medical Center San Diego on November 18, according to a recent press release. “That’s a tiny amount of time when compared to the magnitude of the procedure.”

The procedure is truly incredible, as it involved two surgeries at the same time. One surgical team worked on removing Murry’s tumor-stricken lower jaw while another cut out a section of the Marine’s fibula, the smaller of the two bones in the lower leg, and reshaped it to form a replacement lower jaw.

“Basically, I’m going to assemble a new lower jaw while the bone is still receiving its blood supply from the leg,” Hammer said in a November press release before the surgery. “We’ll then fully remove it, and transplant it into ready and waiting blood vessels in the head and neck, specifically into branches of the carotid artery and the jugular vein.”

The sutures they used to attach the new jaw to the existing blood vessels at the head and neck are about half the thickness of a human hair, Hammer explained.

Reshaping a leg bone into a jaw is crazy enough, but the surgery was also unique in that the surgeons crowned the new jaw with 3D-printed teeth designed right there at NMCSD. Even more extraordinary, the surgeons left enough of Murry’s fibula in his leg so that once he fully recovers he will have no restrictions on movement and exercise.

“He’s a young Marine,” Hammer said. “[The ability to] exercise and move around is huge for his readiness, rehabilitation and morale.”

Marine jaw denture dentist surgery
Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Hammer, left, and Lt. Justin Odette, inspect a patient’s prosthetic denture about six weeks after jaw replacement surgery, December 29, 2020.

The procedure is the first of its kind to be performed in California and the Department of Defense and is one of the first to be performed in the US. But why was it necessary to harvest the fibula and remove the lower jaw at the same time?

Hammer explained that it was a safer and more efficient option: The more time a patient spends under anesthesia, the great the likelihood that complications can occur, he said. Plus, fewer surgeries mean that Murry has more time to recover and fewer traumas to recover from.

“Through collaboration with multiple surgeons and the knowledge obtained in my training, we can forever change a person’s life for the better in just one day,” Hammer said. “In terms of psychosocial damage and military readiness, there’s no question that the immediate jaw reconstruction procedure is better in every aspect versus the antiquated approach.”

It also helps to have a patient with a great attitude. Murry said he never felt too nervous, because he trusted the hands of his surgical team.

“Even though I hadn’t been in a hospital since I was three, I knew I was in good hands,” the Marine said. “I had to put all of my faith and hopes in the hands of strangers. I had to trust them all.”

He also relied on his mother and grandfather to ask insightful questions about the procedure and keep him calm throughout the process.

“My mother called [NMCSD surgeon Lt. Justine Odette] with questions that I wouldn’t have thought to ask, and my grandfather assured me that everything was going to be alright,” said Murry. “He calmed me down and put my mind at ease. [Odette] and Dr. Hammer have been very good at passing information to me and my family.”

The surgery took place on November 18, and Murry’s recovery has been smooth sailing since then. Within a week of the surgery, the team removed his tracheostomy tube, which is placed in a hole in the patient’s neck to allow for breathing. Soon afterward, the Marine passed a swallow test, and he was back to speaking and eating without a feeding tube.

“To see him swallowing, speaking, walking and not using a tracheostomy tube one week post-surgery was a huge victory, both for [Murry] and for us,” Hammer said. “Even with an entirely new lower jaw, we were so confident in his ability to swallow, we removed his feeding tube immediately after [Murry] passed the swallow study.”

Of course, just because Murry is healing fast does not mean it has been easy.

“The first two weeks were difficult, and I was in a lot of pain,” he said. “I’ve been on a soft food diet of chicken noodle soup, baked beans and ramen noodles. I really look forward to getting back into a healthy mindset and working out, running and body building.

“Everything is going to heal, and healing is a process that won’t last forever,” he added.

Hammer credited his military medical training and the other health professionals on the NMCSD team for the smooth execution of the procedure. Other physicians include Odette, one of NMCSD’s Dental Department’s Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMFS) chief residents; Cmdr. Yu Zhang, a maxillofacial prosthodontist assigned to NMCSD; Capt. Craig Salt, Cmdrs. Eamon O’Reilly and Yan Ortiz from Plastic Surgery; and Cmdr. Patrick Morrell, who led one of the surgical teams charged with the removal of the patient’s lower jaw. Murry also got help from NMCSD’s Intensive Care Unit, Physical and Occupational Therapy, Speech-Language Pathology, Respiratory Therapy, Clinical Nutrition, Social Work, and Nursing teams.

The Marine will still have regular check-ups to make sure the new teeth are in good condition and the new bone is completely integrated into the jaw. But if everything goes expected, he’ll be completely healed, restriction-free, and able to solid food within six months.

When that happens, Murry said, pizza is most definitely on the menu.

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For the first time ever, the Marine Corps will train women at its all-male West Coast boot camp

Marine Corps recruit boot camp Parris Island
A recruit receives instructions on the range prior to live fire on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, November 12, 2019.

  • The Marine Corps is sending women to its all-male West Coast boot camp in San Diego for the first time.
  • The Corps already trains women at its other recruit depot in South Carolina, but the service is preparing to meet a congressional mandate to make its entry-level training coed.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

For the first time ever, the Marine Corps is about to send dozens of women to its all-male West Coast boot camp as the service prepares to meet a congressional mandate to make its entry-level training coed.

About 60 female recruits will begin training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in February, multiple officials told Military.com. The plan is part of a test run as the Marine Corps experiments with ways to end its long-held tradition of separating enlisted recruits by gender when they arrive at boot camp.

The service has historically trained female recruits only at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina. But it is required by law to end that practice within five years at Parris Island and within eight at San Diego.

Three women will also graduate from the Marine Corps’ West Coast drill instructor school this week, officials said. The new drill instructors will be part of the team responsible for training the incoming female platoon.

Commandant Gen. David Berger, the Marine Corps’ top general, said during a Defense One event in September that the service would “run a couple of trials this wintertime” in which it would move female drill instructors from South Carolina to San Diego “and train recruits on the West Coast to see how this is going to work.”

It was not immediately clear at the time whether that meant the drill instructors would train the male recruits already there, or women as well.

Marine Corps recruit San Diego
Drill instructors correct a new recruit at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, March 30, 2020.

The recruits will be assigned to a coed company once they get to San Diego. The company will follow the training model Parris Island has been using over the last two years to train men and women together in the same company.

The first-ever gender-integrated company, which included one female platoon and five male platoons, graduated from Parris Island in March 2019. Several more coed companies have since completed training together there.

Lawmakers have pressed the Marine Corps to train men and women together after all combat arms jobs opened to women and a high-profile scandal highlighted the troubling way some male Marines treated their female colleagues. The requirement to end the practice was included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which was signed into law last December.

Leaders have said that the coed companies that have graduated at Parris Island have performed as well, if not better than, some all-male or all-female companies.

“If anything, it went a little better because there’s a little bit more competition with [each platoon] going, ‘No, we need to beat them,’ or ‘We can’t let them beat us,'” now-retired Maj. Gen. William Mullen, the former head of Marine Corps Training and Education Command, told Military.com last year. “So there was a little bit of that effect. But other than that, there was no real difference.”

The female recruits that will ship to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in February have already been notified that they won’t be training at Parris Island, officials said. The women, like most men who train in San Diego, will ship from states west of the Mississippi River.

The Marine Corps is also studying, as part of meeting its congressional mandate to make boot camp coed, the possibility of training all its recruits at a new site rather than shipping them to separate coasts. That has led to outcry from South Carolina politicians who are pushing back against closing the historic Parris Island base.

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

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