Top Marine Gen. Robert Neller told senators he intends to solve issues in the Marines that prompted former and current Corps members to share nude photos of female service members online without their permission.
Neller directly addressed female Corps members, and asked them to trust Marine leadership to "take action and correct this problem."
"I ask you to trust me personally as your commandant and when I say I'm outraged that many of you haven't been given the same respect when you earn the title Marine," he said.
Read his full remarks below.
Chairman McCain, Ranking Member Reed, senators of the committee, normally I appear before this committee to take an opportunity to tell you about the extraordinary actions and things your Marines are doing at home and around the globe. Today, however, is different. I'm here to discuss the details of some truly disturbing and unacceptable actions that have allegedly been committed on social media, primarily against the women of our Marine Corps.
The recent release of information, first uncovered by a combat wounded Marine reporter about the online posting of explicit and lewd pictures and then even more troubling, derogatory, demeaning and in some cases sexually violent comments about female Marines are why we're here and what we're going to talk about. Such actions pervert our culture and bring me here.
As I'm sure you did, I received this recent news regarding actions on the Marines United Facebook site with a mixture of emotions; disappointment, shock, anger, disgust and outrage. The Marine Corps I've served for over 40 years has a problem and we intend to fix it.
I struggle with labeling the problem we face. Some say we have a problem with our culture, some say it's an insider threat. My natural inclination is to resist this because I believe in my heart the Marine Corps culture is based on our core values of honor, courage and commitment. It represents who we are. The online behavior of some individuals, whether they're currently serving Marines, former Marines or others who simply wandered in have attacked our Marine Corp values, our ethos.
We draw our strength from the team. Everything we do in training from day one is focused on the team and not the individual. But some seem to have forgotten that every member of our team is an equal and a valued member of our Corps. Every Marine has a role to play, every Marine earns our title, commands the respect of their fellow Marines.
We proudly advertise the transformation that occurs at recruit, training and officer candidate school. First, by the methods by which we recruit, train and transform young men and women from citizens to Marines but the transformation isn't perfect in all cases, some Marines can lose their way and disregard or fail to comprehend our ethos.
At every level of leadership, we must do a better job of sustaining this transformation and eliminating any behavior that targets any individuals less than a teammate or fellow Marine. We must attack any behavior that has a corrosive effect on good order and discipline of our Corps.
I came into the Marine Corps with the problems of the '70s, shortly after Vietnam, drug use and race relations were tearing us apart. Some of you were there then and you remember this. Our commandant at the time, General Louis Wilson, took a firm stance to get our Corps back to true north. He improved our recruiting standards and made it his personal mission to address those who can't or don't want to measure up to our standards needed to find another place to perform.
I believe we face a similar situation today. The vast majority of Marines past and present are American citizens, are good and decent people. They are as upset by the behavior represented on Marines United as you and I, and I'm calling out all Marines to take a stand against this destructive conduct, to take a stand and support and respect every Marine, to demonstrate to the American people who we really are, that we embody our ethos of honor, courage and commitment.
When any Marine unit goes into action, there are never bystanders. We all have a role to play. We all have to be fully committed to the mission. The same is true in garrison, in the barracks, back here at home. There can be no bystanders. We must all be engaged as teammates. Every Marine has a role to play to ensure that our team remains strong.
I would ask to take this opportunity to speak directly to every female in our Marine Corps, past and present. I know I'm asking a lot of you right now, but I ask you to trust the leadership of the Marine Corps to take action and correct this problem. I ask you to trust me personally as your commandant and when I say I'm outraged that many of you haven't been given the same respect when you earn the title Marine.
I know you aren't asking to be labeled as victims, for anyone's pity. I know you would find that as insulting as the recent behavior and comments on social media. I know what you do for our Corps, for our team and what you've contributed to include during the past 16 years of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. I know when you earn the eagle, globe and anchor, you wear it as proudly as the Marines you are.
To the men in our Corps, serving today and those whom no longer wear the uniform, you're still Marines. I need you to ask yourselves, how much more do the females of our Corps have to do to be accepted? Was it enough when Major Megan McClung was killed by an IED in Ramadi? Or Captain Jennifer Harris killed when her helicopter was shot down while she was flying blood from Baghdad to Fallujah Surgical? Or Corporals Jennifer Parcell and Hallie Ann Sharat (ph) and Ramona Valdez all killed by the hands of our enemies?
What is it going to take for you to accept these Marines as Marines? I'm committed to making this right and I need all Marines equally committed. We all have to commit to getting rid of this perversion to our culture. Enough is enough.
So, ladies and gentlemen of the committee, we'll take action to correct this stain on our Marine Corps. I have no illusions or delusions about how difficult that will be, but that doesn't mean we're going to stand by and watch it. It can't go on anymore and I'm prepared to answer your questions.