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Female battalion commander removed for abusive behavior

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Lt. Col. Kate Germano, commanding officer (former) of 4th Recruit Training Battalion at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C.  Image credit: D.O.D
Lt. Col. Kate Germano, commanding officer (former) of 4th Recruit Training Battalion at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. Image credit: D.O.D

July 09–The leader of the U.S. Marine Corps’ only all-female recruit battalion, which is based on Parris Island, has been removed from her command following an investigation that found instances of abusive behavior and controversial opinions on sexual assault and gender issues.

Lt. Col. Kate Germano, who led the 4th Recruit Training Battalion for one year, was relieved of those duties June 30 for “a poor command climate and the loss of trust and confidence in her ability to serve in command,” Brig. Gen. Terry V. Williams, commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, said in a statement.

“The Marine Corps holds all Marines, especially commanders, to a high set of standards,” the statement said.

Germano verbally abused fellow officers and subordinates and created an environment of “toxic leadership,” a command investigation found. She also told recruits rape was preventable, that those who drink put themselves in position to be assaulted, and made her subordinates fear reporting sexual assault, according to the investigation, a copy of which was obtained by The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet after a Freedom of Information Act request.

Germano told graduating recruits that men would never take orders from them, and they would always be viewed as “weak and less of a Marine,” the investigating officer found.

The investigation contained numerous statements and interviews, including some in support of Germano, a Texas native who was first commissioned as an officer in 1996.

Germano was at odds with her superior and filed an “equal opportunity” complaint, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The complaint initiates an investigation into allegations of discrimination or harassment. That investigation, ordered by Marine Corps Training and Command, found no evidence of gender discrimination or a hostile work environment related to equal opportunity, according to a copy obtained by the Gazette and Packet.

The 4th Recruit Training Battalion includes 630 women, a Marine Corps Recruit Depot spokesman said.

Germano had begun command with a positive attitude and wanted the battalion to be competitive with others and to raise standards for physical fitness and rifle performance, the investigation documents showed.

In a letter to her battalion, Germano said the battalion worked through “considerable active and passive resistance” throughout the depot.

“Together we redefined the perceived physical and mental limits of female recruits and Marines, which will have a lasting and positive impact on the Institution,” she wrote in the letter. “Regardless of my departure, you must never, ever give up trying to change the status quo.

“You are so much better than the Marine Corps knows and it is the right thing to do for not only the Institution, but also our nation. You deserve a seat at the table with your counterparts, but you must continue to earn it every day and never take it for granted.”

Germano assumed command June 10, 2014. The battalion’s executive officer will serve as acting commander until a replacement is selected.

Germano’s next assignment is unknown, the spokesman said.

An anonymous complaint filed in April alleged that Germano abused authority and used abusive language and triggered a command climate survey, which anonymously assesses several factors within a commander’s organization.

Germano’s results in organizational effectiveness were below average in nine of 10 categories, the survey found.

The surveys are conducted within 30 days after an officer assumes command and at least annually after that, a Marine Corps spokesman said.

Follow reporter Stephen Fastenau at twitter.com/IPBG_Stephen.

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