- One of the first female infantry Marines is facing discharge from the Corps for misconduct.
- Her commanding general will decide the conditions of her likely discharge, which will determine eligibility for VA benefits and potentially impact her civilian career.
- Her likely discharge is yet another blow to the military’s effort to fully integrate women into combat roles.
The military’s effort to integrate women into combat positions suffered another blow this week as reports surfaced that one of the first female infantry Marines might be discharged less than two years after joining her infantry unit.
Cpl. Remedios Cruz, who was reduced in rank from sergeant, is facing discharge after pleading guilty to fraternization as part of a deal to avoid going to trial. According to the New York Times, in the Article 32 hearing -the military’s version of a grand jury proceeding – the presiding official advised against a full-blown court-martial.
Cruz’s battalion commander disagreed, and recommended she go to trial for all three charges brought against her, which included adultery, accessory to larceny and fraternization, the Times reported.
Cruz admitted to fraternization and waived her right to an administrative separation board, leaving the decision in the hands of Maj. Gen. David Furness, commanding general of the Second Marine Division. While it is likely she will be separated, Furness will decide whether to discharge her and under what conditions, which will directly impact her ability to receive VA benefits and future employability.
In an interview with the Times, Cruz said she is ready to move on. But her case may have bigger implications for the military’s ongoing efforts to integrate women into combat positions – an endeavour that has faced a number of setbacks and fierce criticism from many quarters.
Just last week, the Army removed a company first sergeant from his position after an investigation into his relationship with a female subordinate, who was also punished. The woman, who was not named in the Army Times report, was one of the first soldiers to graduate from the Army’s infantry training.
Secretary of Defence James Mattis says the military needs more time before labelling its integration effort as a success or failure.
“I think you need a larger cohort before you can evaluate something like that. Can’t make broad assessments based on very, very few numbers,” he told Task and Purpose.
Although there are approximately 16,000 women in the Corps, Cruz is one of just 24 female infantry Marines. Regardless of service branch, women hoping to join what had been historically male-only branches face heavy criticism and even resistance, a fact that did not go unnoticed during the Army’s investigation.
According to the Army Times, one of the investigators looking into the fraternization allegations wrote that the couple’s actions “could be detrimental to the image of female integration” into combat roles.
Cruz’s defence attorney, Marine Capt. Jacob Johnston, believes her case should not define her service.
“Regardless of the outcome of this case, Corporal Cruz has been a courageous pioneer for women in the military,” Johnson said in a statement to the Times. “She has earned a place in Marine Corps history.”
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