Controversy Ensues After Female Marine Commander Is Fired

| by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades

The Defense Department must either integrate women into combat roles by 2016 or give reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to join the fray.

Attention has turned to Lt. Col. Kate Germano, the former commanding officer of 4th Recruit Training Battalion at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, who was fired from her post at the all-women boot camp on June 30.

Germano’s detractors claim her time in the leadership role was plagued by complaints that she created a toxic work environment.

“This whole thing started when her Marines — her female Marines — were telling us they were being mistreated,” Col. Jeffrey Fultz, the chief of staff for Parris Island, told The New York Times. “She was telling them their male counterparts will never respect them if they don’t get good physical scores. You just don’t do that.”

She was also accused of “victim-blaming” during a sexual assault prevention event. Witnesses told Military Times that sexual assault is "100 percent preventable" and that "by drinking, you are putting yourself in a position to be sexually assaulted.”

Despite her alleged shortcomings as a leader, her champions claim she was simply holding women to higher standards. Before she took command, the failure rate of female recruits at the rifle range was about three times higher than that of their male counterparts.

By the time she left her position 95 percent of women passed initial rifle qualification, which is the same as the men. “Once we showed the recruits and the coaches and drill instructors it was possible, it filled them with so much confidence,” Germano said. “They knew they were as good as every other recruit, and my hope was the Marines saw it, too.”

When Germano was fired, she had already turned in her retirement papers. She said she hoped to develop respect among male and female Marine recruits by ensuring women were held to the same standards, making them more credible.

“I was pushing recruits hard, and there was a faction of Marines that was unhappy with me, but I was OK with that. I was just trying to do right by the Marines,” she said. Germano is currently at Washington Navy Yard, awaiting a new assignment.

“This is not about me, and it’s not about whether women can serve in combat roles,” she said. “This is about building respect and credibility among all Marines so that we can fulfill our mission.”

Despite the controversy, some believe the blame doesn’t rest with Germano.

"I thought she proposed some good initiatives such as transparency in billet selections and improving rifle range scores,” an anonymous Marine said in a statement. "However, as the summer wore in, it became apparent that (Germano) thought she was fixing a broken battalion with a poor command climate.”

Another officer echoed the sentiment during an interview with Military Times. "Lt. Col. Germano is direct, and people have a tendency to take it personally," she said. "If it had come from a male officer, there would have been no objection.”

Sources: Military Times, The New York Times Image via Defense Department/Military Times