Why was a female US Marine commander fired?

After a controversial year in command, Lt. Col. Kate Germano was asked to give up her position on June 30.

Melanie Stetson Freeman
Female Marine recruits go through the culmination of basic training known as The Crucible: 54 hours of intense marching, drilling and problem solving.

When Lt. Col Kate Germano became commanding officer of the all-female boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, she wanted to improve what she saw was a discouraging environment for female troops. 

Yet some commanders and marines found Colonel Germano “hostile, unprofessional and abusive," according to an investigation obtained by the Marine Corps Times. After a controversial year in command, Colonel Germano was asked to give up her position on June 30.

In a farewell letter addressed to her marines, Colonel Germano claimed Brig. Gen. Terry Williams, the commander of Parris Island, fired her “due to his loss of trust and confidence in my ability.”

Two internal investigations exposed complaints against Colonel Germano’s behavior, yet she claimed the first was biased because some officials had participated more than once.

In May, she filed an “equal opportunity” complaint and requested a follow-up independent investigation on discrimination or harassment allegations. She claimed Col. Daniel Haas, the commander of the training regiment, had created a “hostile work environment” and “consistently undermined my ability to command,” the New York Times reported.

Colonel Germano’s relationship with Colonel Haas got off to a bad start, according to statements she made during the investigation, obtained by the San Diego Union-Tribune. She claimed Haas said she was being overly aggressive and was “breaking the chain of command." 

Yet the investigation, completed on June 24, didn’t find any evidence of gender discrimination. Instead, it found that Germano "abused her authority and lacked the ability to maintain the effective working relationships required to command.” 

Some marines also said that Germano singled out troops if they didn’t perform well and "reinforced gender bias and stereotypes.” 

“She was telling them their male counterparts will never respect them if they don’t get good physical scores,” Col. Jeffrey Fultz, the chief of staff for Parris Island, told The New York Times. “You just don’t do that.”

Yet some say Germano’s gender hindered her relations with her marines and fellow commanders.

"Lt. Col. Germano is direct, and people have a tendency to take it personal,” said one officer who spoke with the Marine Corps Times on the basis of anonymity. “If it had come from a male officer, there would have been no objection." 

Women currently make up seven percent of the Marine Corps, but the number is expected to grow over the coming years. By January 2016, the armed forces will have to integrate women into all combat roles unless it provides compelling evidence for why they wouldn’t make the cut.

Germano had repeatedly expressed that both male and female marines should live up to the same, high standards, according to The New York Times.

She felt some in the Marine Corps undermined women’s ability to shoot and asked the head of Weapons and Field Training to focus coaching efforts on female recruits, the Marine Corps Times reported. Within a few months, 91 percent of female Marines passed the first-time rifle qualifications, compared to 68 percent prior to her request. 

“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,” Germano wrote in her farewell 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.”

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.