The case of a Marine female commander recruit battalion commander fired amid controversy last month is receiving attention from a powerful member of the Senate.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., offered up Lt. Col. Kate Germano as an example of a Marine officer fighting for tougher standards for women in the military during the July 23 confirmation hearing of Lt. Gen. Robert Neller, nominee for commandant of the Marine Corps.
Gillibrand mentioned Germano during a question to Neller about how he planned to approach the question of integrating women into closed combat units, a process set to take place next year under a Defense Department mandate.
"I know that in the case of Col. Kate Germano, she was trying to create even tougher requirements for them so that they could meet standards," she said. "As you look at your standard review, and as you look as to whether you're going to ... ask for a waiver for any positions today, I would urge you not to seek waivers."
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
Photo Credit: Neilson Barnard
Germano, the former head commander of 4th Recruit Training Battalion out of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, was relieved June 30 by Brig. Gen. Terry Williams, the base depot's commander. An investigation found she had created a toxic command climate and was "hostile, unprofessional and abusive" to subordinates. But Germano and her a growing number of supporters say she had been working successfully to improve the Marine Corps' only female recruit battalion, and was ostracized as a result of her methods.
Glen Caplin, a spokesman for Gillibrand, Glen Caplin, said the senator was closely following Germano's case, but declined to describe next steps her office might take on the officer's behalf.
Gillibrand, a longtime advocate of military sexual assault prevention and other issues facing women in uniform, told argued to Neller that while female Marines might struggle to meet the job requirements for certain combat posts today, a waiver would prevent them from working to achieve those standards in the future.
"I would caution you not to take that action because in the future of the force, we want all of our best and brightest," she said.
Neller declined to commit to a position in his response, saying he had yet to speak with Gen. Joseph Dunford, the current commandant, about where integration planning stood.
"I have not seen all the data, and I don't believe we've in any way, shape, or form presupposed whether we will or not," he said.
Neller He did not mention Germano or remark on Gillibrand's reference to the fired commander.
Germano has said she is appealing her relief through lawmakers, though she declined to discuss the specifics with Marine Corps Times, citing protected communications with Congress.
Reached for comment, Germano thanked all the senators who asked questions about gender integration during Neller's confirmation hearing.
"I am grateful to the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, especially Senator Gillibrand, Senator [Tim] Kaine, and Senator [Mazie] Hirono, for their interest in this very important matter," she said in a statement provided to Marine Corps Times. "The discussion of gender integration and high standards is very important both for our nation and the Marine Corps, which I love and have served for two decades."
Germano's case has been hailed by some as an example of a way female Marines are encouraged to underachieve, leaving them less prepared to lead male counterparts in the fleet. The Marine Corps maintains, however, that her relief was the result of poor leadership cited by her fellow Marines, rather than a gender-based issue.
In an editorial published by The New York Times on editorial published July 17, author, Marine veteran and Silver Star recipient Elliot Ackerman wrote about the case, saying it highlighted the "hypermasculine culture" of the Marine Corps, and raised questions about whether the Corps was willing to fully embrace the presence of women in its ranks.
"The deeper challenge is not physical," he wrote. "It is institutional."