One of the first female infantry Marines is now being kicked out.
Now-Cpl. Remedios Cruz, one of the first female Marines to serve in an infantry unit, is facing discharge after pleading guilty to fraternization, the Washington Times reported Wednesday. She also faces charges of adultery and accessory to larceny.
Cruz, 26, pleaded guilty to charges of fraternization to avoid taking the matter to trial on all three charges. Her plea deal was accompanied by demotion from her former rank of Sergeant, and orders not to leave the base.
She is currently waiting on the discharge decision from the commanding general of the 2nd Marine Division. If she is discharged other-than-honorably, she could lose nearly all of her VA benefits, and her record could impact future employment as a civilian.
— The Washington Times (@WashTimes) September 12, 2018
Cruz reportedly engaged in an intimate relationship with a fellow Marine – one of her subordinates. She eventually married the individual before her accusations came to light.
An officer who oversaw the pre-trial hearing determined there was no probable cause for adultery or larceny charges, but recommended punishment for Cruz’s fraternization.
“The biggest mistakes I’ve made in the infantry were from my personal relationships,” she told The New York Times during an interview. “I really want to move on.”
“Regardless of the outcome of this case, Corporal Cruz has been a courageous pioneer for women in the military and she has earned a place in Marine Corps history,” said Capt. Jacob Johnston, Cruz’s lawyer.
Cruz joined the Marines in 2013 as a supply clerk. She completed infantry training in 2014, and two years later requested transfer to an infantry unit. Her request was initially fought by the Marines, despite the order of the Secretary of Defense at the time, Ash Carter, which permitted women to serve in combat roles.
“I had a taste of what it was like to train to fight,” Cruz said. “And I felt like if I was going to say that I served my country, I wanted to be able to just do that — but not on the sidelines.”
Shortly after she joined the infantry battalion in January 2017, she achieved the rank of sergeant. She was among the first three women to join the battalion.
Later, her relationship with a Marine of lower rank in her unit began, and she married him before deploying to Japan in August 2017.
It was after her deployment that senior commanders learned of her relationship, prompting an investigation. The investigation determined Cruz’s actions warranted “appropriate administrative or disciplinary actions” by the chain of command.
Her battalion commander, Lt. Col. Reginald McClam, said at the time that Cruz enabled an “environment which compromised her professional reputation and ultimately the good order and discipline of the unit.”
However, two other commanding officers above McClam recommended against disciplinary action. One of them, Col. Kevin Norton, recommended counseling instead of court-martial, citing “inadequate knowledge of and guidance to young Marines from the battalion chain of command.”
Mike Berry, a Marine Corps judge advocate, said fraternization is a common issue, but rarely punished in court-martial.
Twenty-four females remain in infantry units in the Marines, although 16,000 women serve in the branch overall.