Commandant Responds to Troubling Study on Marine Corps Culture

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Gen. David Berger, the new U.S. Marines commandant, speaks during a press conference in Tokyo, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Yuri Kageyama)
Gen. David Berger, the new U.S. Marines commandant, speaks during a press conference in Tokyo, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Yuri Kageyama)

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. -- The commandant of the Marine Corps has a message for fellow Marines who have a problem with women wearing the uniform: "Go somewhere else."

"If we have one leader, one Marine, who thinks that females are really a pain in my backside and they don't help my combat readiness, he's either or she's either got to change their mind, or go somewhere else," Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said during a discussion with reporters at the annual Reagan National Defense Forum on Saturday. "We have one standard in the Marine Corps. Not two, not three. One."

Berger said whether that individual was predisposed to view women negatively or learned the attitude while serving "doesn't matter."

"They have to change their opinion or move on," he said.

Berger was addressing questions surrounding a recently released study commissioned by the Corps which asked Marines for their perspective on service culture. Leaders granted anonymity, and some interviewees discussed widely held perceptions that women were a "danger" or "nuisance" despite their willingness to serve.

Related: Marine Drill Instructors' 'Unacceptable' Comments About Women Must Stop, General Says

Berger said he was confident that Marine leadership understands why opposing women in the ranks cannot be tolerated, and those who can't fall in line must be held accountable. He added that education for young Marines and prospective recruits who will someday lead the force needs to be constant in order to dispel long-standing stereotypes.

Berger's comments come a few weeks after Maj. Gen. William Mullen, the head of Training and Education Command, revealed that he asked the commanding general of the Marine Corps' West Coast all-male recruit training depot to look at the way drill instructors are speaking to their recruits about women.

"We are concerned with some of the things that male drill instructors are saying to their male platoons about females," he told Military.com during an interview at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, last month.

Mullen did not identify specific complaints about what drill instructors are saying about women at either recruit depot, but said he wanted to be sure the problem didn't persist.

The way drill instructors influence how new Marines view women was one of the takeaways from a task force assembled to assess gender issues in the Marine Corps, Mullen said.

The task force was created in the wake of a massive 2017 social media scandal that left hundreds of male Marines investigated for allegedly sharing nude photos of their female colleagues online without their permission.

The scandal uncovered deep-rooted problems with how men in the service treat women, especially on social media websites.

"This is something we cannot take our eye off of," Berger added.

-- Gina Harkins contributed to this report.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

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