US Marine Corps commander Robert Neller expressed his dismay that Marines had been sharing naked images of female soldiers online. He urged more women and witnesses to come forward.
The Pentagon pledged on Friday to take "all appropriate action" in the wake of a widening scandal over a group of US Marine Corps (USMC) service members posting nude photos of their female colleagues online.
USMC commander General Robert Neller asked women who knew they had been targeted to "trust us" and come forward. Fewer than ten have done so thus far.
The story first broke when "The War Horse," a news group run by retired marine Thomas Brennan received a tip about a Facebook group called "Marines United." The closed group was being used to circulate pictures of female Marines in various states of undress, both taken and uploaded without their knowledge. The posts would often include the names, ranks, and locations of the soldiers - as well as a string of lewd comments about them.
"This affects our entire organization," said General Neller in a press conference, reminding USMC service members that men and women have been serving side by side, many losing their lives, for over 15 years of conflict.
Neller noted the systematic reticence to include women as equals in the Marines. In 2015, the USMC became the last military service to ask that female soldiers be banned from certain frontline combat jobs, a request that was denied by then Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
"So what do you gotta do to get in?" said Neller, looking straight into the cameras instead of at the reporters. "I mean, c'mon guys. They just want to do their job. Let them do their job. And you do yours."
Neller: We want to be thorough
He stressed, too, that the Marine Corps would take as long as necessary to investigate the matter and would not abandon the victims.
"We don't want to be in a hurry. We want to make sure we're thorough and we're within the law," he said. But he also expressed the need for women to feel they could trust their superiors if they knew their privacy had been violated: "I'm going to ask them to trust us. I understand why that might be a bit of a reach for them right now... The only way there is going to be accountability in this is somebody comes forward and tells us what happened to them."
Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis added later on Friday that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis plans to meet with both military and civilian officials in order to determine the most appropriate punishment for offenders and course of actions to deter such misconduct in the future. He joined General Neller in expressing his disgust at the distribution of the photos.
es/se (AP, AFP)