11 Troops Kicked Out After Court-Martial in Wake of Marines United Scandal

Women with a U.S. Marine Female Engagement Team operating in Europe demonstrated their capabilities in Marine Corps martial arts to Romanian and U.S. soldiers in Romania, 29 Sept., 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Michelle Reif)
Women with a U.S. Marine Female Engagement Team operating in Europe demonstrated their capabilities in Marine Corps martial arts to Romanian and U.S. soldiers in Romania, 29 Sept., 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Michelle Reif)

The Marine Corps continues to wade through prosecutions of active-duty troops found to have been involved in the swapping of nude photos of troops through the "Marines United" Facebook page last year, or other social media misconduct in a similar vein.

As of this month, 101 prosecutions have been completed, with 11 troops sent to court-martial, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Glenn Walters said Tuesday. Walters, who was made head of initiatives to investigate the social media scandal and root out underlying cultural issues, told members of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services that, in all, the Marine Corps had identified 185 persons of interest suspected of social media misconduct, including 163 Marines and 22 civilians.

Of the 101 dispositions complete as of Sept. 5, the results were as follows:

  • 3 general courts-martial
  • 6 special courts-martial
  • 2 summary courts-martial
  • 16 non-judicial punishments
  • 8 administrative separations
  • 29 adverse administrative actions
  • 37 cases concluded without formal adverse action

All of the courts-martial resulted in bad-conduct discharges, with defendants busted down to private and forced to forfeit all pay and benefits, Walters said.

For the larger number of Marines who received administrative adverse action, Walters said they likely still will see their careers ended over their actions.

"They got a 6105 [adverse counseling] in their record, which means if you're a sergeant or below, you're probably not going to have the cutting score required [to be promoted]," he said. "You know how tight the promotion boards are."

It remains unclear exactly how many active-duty Marines shared or viewed the drive passed around the Marines United Facebook group containing nude photos of troops, some of them identified and shared without the subjects' consent. Some 50,000 users were reportedly members in the group, which was shut down before criminal investigators could act.

Walters said Tuesday that Naval Criminal Investigative Service officials had analyzed 131,000 images across 168 social media platforms, using face-recognition technology to identify victims where possible and take legal action.

While the relatively small number of prosecutions in the year-and-a-half since the existence of Marines United was made public has drawn criticism, Walters highlighted a number of other new policies implemented since the scandal that emphasize the requirement to behave respectfully and professionally on social media.

These include a class on social media offered to all Marine recruits during boot camp; a contract new Marine accessions must sign acknowledging that they're aware of service social media standards and expectations; and new policies requiring mandatory reporting of social media misconduct.

Walters said one recent trend in reporting misconduct is giving him cause for hope.

"What I'm encouraged by is that some of the reports are being generated not by the female Marines, but by male Marines who are seeing another Marine doing something wrong," he said. "It's not a significant number. It's probably in the 8 percent range. But that's 8 percent that we didn't have. So I'm very happy with that."

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

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