A spokesman for the Marines United Facebook group that posted nude photos of female service members says the scandal proves women should not be allowed to join the infantry.
Marshall Chiles, a former U.S. Marine, is speaking out to defend the 30,000 members of Marines United, which was caught sharing explicit photos of women—civilian and military—without their knowledge or consent. (The private group was shut down, but several others have replaced it.)
“I think the exploitation of sharing nudity of other service members online will eventually get solved, but what I’m saying is that even before then, you still have special cases going on inside units. So when you integrate women, those numbers are going to spike up within those infantry units and that’s just more things for the Marine Corps to worry about. And it’s not just the Corps, but the Army as well,” said Chiles, a former sergeant who served six years on active duty.
When asked by The Daily Beast about what combat integration of women had to do with the exploitation of women in secret online chat rooms, Chiles responded:
“Integration is not completed yet. There’s a lot of things we don’t know, but what we do know is that they’re these seven sexual-assault cases that happened when the Marine Corps tried to integrate,” Chiles said. “So what does this have to do with the online community?”
Chiles was referring to sexual assaults reported in a gender-mixed infantry battalion in 2015.
“You had 30,000 members in an online group, you’re always going to have your 1 or 10 percent that are going to do things wrong, that go against the Marine Corps and its standards. If you have a bunch of males together and this happens, just think about what can happen if you add women to that. I see this turning into a big problem for both sides [males and females] and the integrity of the Marine Corps wouldn’t stand just based off what happened with Marines United,” he concluded.
Chiles said he doesn’t question the ability of women to accomplish their jobs if fully integrated into combat roles. For him, it’s the Marines Corps’ ability to keep up with and prevent sexual assaults.
“Murder is illegal on the streets of America, but people still do it. So sexual crimes are still going to happen in the military regardless of how they [Pentagon and Congress] try to clamp down on it or revise [policies]. It’s still going to happen and at that point, I don’t really question the physicality of women. I question the logistics of the Marine Corps and if they will be able to keep up with it [sexual crimes],” Chiles said.
The Marine Corps established a mixed battalion, known as the Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, in late 2014 to research the integration of women into combat occupational specialties. The unit had around 300 men and 100 women assigned to the test unit, according to The Washington Post, and seven sexual assaults were reported.
“The Marine Corps is supposed to go out and win wars, being the front line of defense for America,” he continued. “So why should would we integrate women when we know it’s going to happen and it’s just going to continue to be a huge distraction?”
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter ended the ban on women in combat in December 2015. Chiles said he believes it’s political pressure that’s forced Marine leadership—Commandant of the Marines Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller and Sgt. Maj. Ronald L. Green, the Corps’ most senior enlisted member—to integrate women into combat roles.
“Sen. Elizabeth Warren was a prime example, pushing for a co-ed boot camp and she questioned the commandant on why we’re not doing that. So I think it’s coming down from civilian leadership and I think the Marine Corps should stand up for itself and say, ‘Look, we have been winning wars for America since 1775. Why should we continue to change the wheels when they’re not broke? We need to look at American defense first before looking at integration.”
Neller’s spokesman, Marine Lt. Col. Eric Dent, harshly criticized Chiles’s comments and compared engaging with him and other critics of the military’s gender integration “to arguing with a toddler incapable of understanding rudimentary logic.”
“Mr. Chiles premise is completely ridiculous,” Dent said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “If [he] is really interested in making the Corps stronger and more capable, he should probably start with considering an all-Marines-invited approach to 'Marines United' rather than a male-only echo chamber. It is not helpful to have former Marines trying to exacerbate a perversion of our culture… We are only going to be successful when there is respect and trust among teammates.”
Chiles said the sharing of nude photos within the private Facebook room was a form of social validation, not actual malfeasance. (Women victims and the law probably think otherwise.)
Chiles also claims Marines United administrators haven’t seen links to nude-photo caches—otherwise they would’ve reported users or booted them from the group.
“Marines United is a group of males coming together who can understand each other. The purpose of the group is to create camaraderie, creating that same feeling that we had when we were all in the military,” he said.
Despite his claim, unknown numbers of male Marines United members have left and several have leaked information from successor groups to The Daily Beast.
Marines United was created with the intention to fill a void in the wake of the multiple scandals, long wait times and claims for compensation that took years to approve by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Chiles said. Additionally, the private Facebook chat room was there to assist struggling veterans and active-duty members who were having thoughts of suicide or just simply struggling with their day-to-day lives. “Taking out the negative that is overshadowing Marines United right now, there were a lot of positives that came out of the group. You had Go Fund Me pages set up for funerals or just helping out a veteran or service member or a food drive because the VA is not accessible and some veterans have to drive over a hundred miles just to get to a VA hospital,” Chiles said.
“The group should not have been shut down, as suicides will now shoot through the roof,” he said of Facebook’s action at the request of the Marine Corps in January.