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Marine Corps updates conduct policy to address nude photo, supremacy scandals

Maj. Jason Schneider, Commanding Officer for H&S Co., H&S Bn., MCI West - MCB Camp Pendleton, gives brief on the Marine Corps Policy on social media April 13, 2017. (LCpl. Dylan Chagnon/U.S. Marine Corps)
September 06, 2018

After scandals involving nude photos and white supremacist marches brought a disturbing image to the Marine Corps, the branch is cracking down on its policies.

The Marines released an official order to update prohibited conduct and activities, which creates greater accountability for Marines to follow the rules or risk separation, reported last week.

A Frequently Asked Questions memo was released by the Marines to explain the order, and highlight the newest changes to the consolidated Prohibited Activities and Conduct (PAC) Prevention and Response Policy.

The order specifies prohibited activities, including “harassment, unlawful discrimination, any type of abuse: hazing, bullying, ostracism, retaliation, wrongful distribution or broadcasting of intimate images, and certain dissident and protest activity (to include supremacist activity).”

According to the Marines, the order “clearly labels bullying, ostracism, retaliation, the wrongful distribution or broadcasting of intimate images/videos/audio recordings, and active advocacy of, or active participation in, supremacist, extremist, or criminal gang matters as prohibited activities and conduct.”

“All of these negative behaviors now fall under one policy known as ‘prohibited activities and conduct’ or ‘PAC,’” the memo noted.

“The Order reaffirms the Marine Corps’ commitment to maintaining a culture of dignity, respect, and trust in which all members of the organization are afforded equal opportunity to achieve their full potential based solely upon individual merit, fitness, intellect, and ability,” the memo explained. “The Order addresses training and education, support for victims, and tightens accountability; violation of the Order may result in punitive action.”

The order comes approximately a year and a half following the nude photo ring circulated by a Facebook group called Marines United. The group was found to be engaging in the sharing of thousands of nude photos of fellow female personnel, most of which were taken and later shared without their consent. Marine veteran and journalist Thomas Brennan of The War Horse broke the story, which quickly circulated and sparked hundreds of investigations of Marines involved in the scandal.

In Aug. 2017, Gen. Glenn Walters told reporters that the Marines were working on changes to improve conduct and cultural issues, and implement policy changes to hold individuals accountable. He said “all options” were under consideration.

Additionally, the order follows the July 2018 discharge of Lance Cpl. Vasillios Pistolis, Marine Corps Times reported. Pistolis was a Marine identified as an avid participant in the 2017 ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Va., an event with violent and supremacist activity, as well as online supremacist remarks and admissions of violence. He received 28 days’ confinement, demotion, and forfeiture of pay, but was eventually discharged altogether.

Yvonne Carlock, a spokeswoman for Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs, said: “As a result of both Marines United and Charlottesville, we included the additional categories of wrongful distribution or broadcasting of an intimate image and dissident and protest activity (including supremacist activity) to ensure Marine Corps policy was clear on these destructive behaviors.”

The Marines hope the updated policy will raise the standards for better leadership, discipline, and improve the overall culture of the branch.