Commandant visits Camp Lejeune in wake of nude photo scandal
By MICHAELA SUMNER | The Daily News, Jacksonville, N.C. (Tribune News Service) | Published: March 16, 2017
The Commandant of the Marine Corps made a visit to Camp Lejeune and New River Air Station Wednesday in the wake of a nude photo scandal that recently made national headlines.
According to Nat Fahy, Camp Lejeune-New River director of public affairs, the Commandant, Gen. Robert B. Neller, spent the better part of Wednesday speaking with Marines to address the recent reports of online misconduct attributed to both Marine Corps veterans and active duty troops.
A report by Thomas Brennan — founder of The War Horse, which is dedicated to reporting on military issues, and a former Daily News reporter — addressed the 30,000-member Facebook group, Marines United, in which active duty and veterans were sharing nude photos of female Marines and civilians without their consent, as well as posting lurid comments about them.
Since then, Neller has testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the allegations, as well as addressed Marines in a video message and enforced battalion-led guided discussions. Neller told senators Tuesday that he planned to fix the misogynistic culture of the Marine Corps, according to Washington Post reports. During his testimony, he asked female Marines to “trust the leadership to correct this problem.”
According to Fahy, Neller stressed the “importance of understanding the updated social media policy and the need for every Marine to help in the fight to end misogyny in the Corps” during his visit, which Fahy said was closed to media. He also referred to a task force that will assess the problem the Marine Corps, as well as other branches of the military, has with online misconduct, harassment and “subculture of misogyny and sexism.”
Additionally, Fahy said Neller conducted town halls with Marines from Camp Lejeune and different tenant commands, including non-commissioned officers and junior Marines, and staff NCOs at Goettge Memorial Field House Wednesday morning; with officers at Marston Pavilion; and at town hall meetings at New River Wednesday afternoon. Neller also met with female Marine NCOs from Camp Lejeune and New River.
The task force is currently led at the headquarters level, according to Capt. Ryan E. Alvis, public affairs officer for Communication Operations & Media Analysis Branch, and will have support from the fleet Marine Corps forces to inform all the decisions made.
“The task force will look at the activity on social media and potential underlying cultural and behavioral issues,” Alvis said in an email to The Daily News. “The task force will develop plans for corrective actions and recommendations for policies, procedures, education and training of Marines that will prevent this behavior and address the subculture that may have given rise to it.”
Alvis also said the task force will represent functional areas across Headquarters Marine Corps with the authorization to examine all mechanisms these issues touch, including victim support, reporting, training, administrative and legal adjudication of online crimes and misconduct.
In an online statement, Maj. Gen. Walter L. Miller Jr., II MEF commanding general, said the behavior is unacceptable, adding that it “destroys morale, erodes trust, and degrades the individual.” He described the Marine Corps as a family and said you don’t treat your family with that kind of disrespect.
Brig. Gen. Thomas D. Weidley, Camp Lejeune commanding general, also issued a statement online, similarly saying the behavior is unacceptable. He reminded Marines they hold the title 24/7, even online, and should respect each other.
The social media policy references Articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), including Articles 92 and 134. Under Article 92, “such commentary and content includes that which is defamatory, threatening, harassing, or which discriminates based on a persons race, color, sex, gender, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or other protected criteria” is punishable. The updated policy also encourages Marines to responsibly post about the Marine Corps, in addition to correcting errors and misrepresentations made about the military branch.
“The task force will work to identify solutions that address immediate, as well as long-term solutions for this online issue and the exposed subculture of misogyny and sexism across the Corps,” Fahy said in a statement to The Daily News.
According to the Marine Corps’ social media policy, Marines who believe they’ve been subject to “inappropriate online misconduct” should report it to their chaplain or a Victims Legal Counsel. Additionally, the Marines can report the misconduct to their chain of command, NCIS, local law enforcement, the Inspector General, equal opportunity advisors, victim witness assistant coordinators, victim advocates, behavioral health counselors, and Military OneSource.
The Marine Corps DSTRESS Line is also available 24/7 for anonymous phone and chat referral service at 877-476-7734. Marines can also find resource information at MCIEast.Marines.mil/OnlineVictims/.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has launched an investigation into the scandal and is requesting those with information on who is posting photos of nude Marines to text the number 274637 with “NCIS” at the beginning of the message, according to the NCIS Twitter profile. Additionally the page suggested people can download the TipSubmit smartphone app, select NCIS, and send tips that way. The tips are anonymous, the post said.
©2017 The Daily News (Jacksonville, N.C.)
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The new Wilson Boulevard Gate at Camp Lejeune, N.C., is shown in July 2014, shortly before it was due to open to base personnel. Marine veteran Terrence Mulligan receives VA medical treatment for a lung disease the agency attributes to contaminated tap water he drank while stationed at Camp Lejeune in the 1970s. But the VA has told Mulligan he shouldn't expect the agency to compensate him anytime soon for his inability to work.
COURTESY U.S. MARINE CORPS