One of the first women to become an infantry Marine is facing an other-than-honorable discharge after having a relationship with a subordinate in her new unit.
Cpl. Remedios Cruz, a rifleman with 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, pleaded guilty to fraternization as part of a pre-trial agreement after leaders discovered she'd married a lance corporal with whom she had a romantic relationship, officials confirmed.
A decision about whether Cruz, who was busted down in rank from sergeant, will be separated from the Marine Corps could come in days, said Maj. Jordan Cochran, a spokesman for II Marine Expeditionary Force. Cruz's case was first reported Wednesday by The New York Times.
Cruz was accused of adultery, larceny and fraternization, he said.
She pleaded guilty to fraternization during non-judicial punishment to avoid facing court-martial. She also waived her right to an administrative discharge board as part of the pre-trial agreement, Cochran said.
Cruz could not immediately be reached for comment. She told the Times she was ready to move on from the Marine Corps.
"The biggest mistakes I've made in the infantry were from my personal relationships," she said.
Phil Cave, a military defense attorney and former Navy prosecutor, said investigations for fraternization are common, especially in the Marine Corps, where commanders take even junior leaders' responsibilities seriously.
There was likely higher interest in this case, he said, since Cruz and her spouse were in the same unit. "That's where things are likely to have some direct input on the unit."
It's also noteworthy, he added, that she's one of the first female grunts. But that doesn't mean the rules don't apply to her.
"It would not be out of order to see a case of a male Marine face NJP for fraternization," Cave said. "... She's to be applauded for surviving infantry training, of course, but that doesn't give you a pass."
Whether Cruz will face an other-than-honorable discharge, which could affect her access to Department of Veterans Affairs benefits and civilian job opportunities, will be decided by Maj. Gen. David Furness, commanding general of 2nd Marine Division, Cochran said.
An officer overseeing a pre-trial hearing recommended that Cruz be administratively punished for fraternization, but found no probable cause for the adultery and larceny charges, The New York Times reported. Lt. Col. Anthony Johnston, 1/8's commanding officer, recommended that all three charges go to trial, according to the Times, "giving her the choice of going to court and risking conviction, or admit to fraternization as part of a broader plea agreement."
Cave said a general discharge seems more appropriate in this case.
Cruz was a supply clerk before graduating from Infantry Training Battalion. She'd been meritoriously promoted at least once in 2013 while assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 12 before moving to 1/8.
She was featured in a Marine Corps video in 2016 after graduating from Infantry Training Battalion. When she heard about the infantry women's study in 2014, she said all she heard was "challenge."
"Marines, we see a challenge, and we overcome it," she said.