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Commanders Fired as Marines Police Mistreatment of Women in Ranks

A company of Marines, both male and female, participate in a 10 kilometer training march carrying 55 pound packs during Marine Combat Training on February 22, 2013 at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
A company of Marines, both male and female, participate in a 10 kilometer training march carrying 55 pound packs during Marine Combat Training on February 22, 2013 at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Of five Marine Corps unit commanders fired this year, two were relieved as a result of a negative command climate that included Marines' improper behavior toward women, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps said Tuesday.

Gen. Glenn Walters, who was tapped to lead efforts to combat misogyny and disrespect in the ranks following the March revelation that some Marines were sharing nude photos of female troops in a private Facebook group, revealed Tuesday for the first time that field-grade officers have been penalized in connection with the problem.

"We relieve commanders for a variety of reasons. I believe -- and if you're going to quote me on this, get it precisely correct -- we have relieved commanders. Two out of those five that have been relieved, I can directly attribute to an awareness of this issue and the fact that they didn't have the correct command climate, and what they did," Walters said. "So to me, that's progress."

Of the five commanders who have been fired this year, four are lieutenant colonels and one is a colonel, all out of North Carolina. They include:

  • Lt. Col. Jennifer Grieves, commander of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 at Marine Corps Air Station New River, was relieved June 2 after a domestic incident that resulted in charges, ultimately dropped, came to light.
  • Col. Daniel O'Hora, commander of Marine Corps Engineer School at Camp Lejeune, was relieved June 6.
  • Lt. Col. Jeffrey Brown, commander of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, was relieved June 14.
  • Lt. Col. Taylor White, commander of Marine Wing Support Squadron 274 at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, was relieved July 20.
  • Lt. Col. Shawn Grzybowski, commander of Combat Logistics Battalion 8 out of Camp Lejeune, was relieved Aug. 3.

As Marine Corps Times reported, Brown and O'Hora were relieved quietly and without an official announcement because their firings were not the result of personal misconduct or an investigation.

While Walters would not identify the two officers he referred to, he said they were removed from their post as a result of lack of trust and confidence in their ability to lead.

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"Their [unit's] behavior toward women was a component of that decision. And that's as far as I'd like to go," Walters said. " ...They didn't do what we want commanders to do and exhibited the wrong behavior as a commander."

To highlight these issues moving forward, Walters told Military.com the Marine Corps was planning changes to command climate surveys to assess the presence of bias within units under a commander's leadership.

"That will get at this if the commander is judged not to have accepted change," he said. "In other words, if he hasn't implemented this, it will be on his fitness report, and that's how we get promoted."

Melissa Cohen, who has been installed as the leader of the Marine Corps' brand-new Personnel Studies and Oversight Office, said those potential changes to command climate surveys are being evaluated now.

"Questions that you add to the survey need to be carefully reviewed so you ask the right questions, so you get the right issues," she said. "And so that's what we are going to be doing moving forward is to make sure we thoroughly vet the questions we'll add to the field so we get the responses."

Since an explosive investigative story in March revealed the existence of non-consensual nude photo-sharing and other activities disrespectful to women online, the Marine Corps has implemented new social media guidance giving commanders more tools to punish troops who act improperly on the internet.

Officials have also implemented guidance requiring that Marines found to have participated in illicit photo-sharing are processed for administrative separation.

In addition, a massive task force including personnel from Naval Criminal Investigative Service has sifted through hundreds of thousands of photographs and identified 100 subjects of interest, 78 of them Marines. To date, 33 have faced some form of punishment, including one summary court-martial and two involuntary separations.

The goal with these activities, Walters said, is to achieve a future Marine Corps where all personnel respect each other.

Editor's Note: The penultimate graph has been updated to correct the number of Marines who have faced punishment to 33.

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