The legal charges against Cpl. Remedios Cruz are not uncommon. But they highlight the Marine Corps’ struggle to integrate women into combat infantry roles.
WASHINGTON — One of the first women to enter the Marine Corps infantry is being discharged from the service after admitting to having an intimate relationship with a subordinate — a fellow Marine she eventually married.
On their own, the legal charges against Cpl. Remedios Cruz, 26, are not uncommon in military investigations of U.S. troops. But they highlight the struggle the Marine Corps has had in integrating women into jobs that were only open to men before 2015.
“The biggest mistakes I’ve made in the infantry were from my personal relationships,” Cruz said. “I really want to move on.”
As part of a deal to avoid going to trial, Cruz pleaded guilty to fraternization in July and decided to put the Marine Corps behind her. She is awaiting her final separation from the Marines.
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She was one of three women who joined 1st Battalion, 8th Marines in January 2017. She was accused of three charges — fraternization, adultery and accessory to larceny — in separate investigations that would have been sent to court-martial in June.
The officer overseeing a pretrial hearing found no probable cause for the adultery and larceny charges, and recommended Cruz be administratively punished for fraternizing with a man she had married before she was accused.
But her battalion commander, Lt. Col. Anthony Johnston, recommended that all three charges go to trial.
Over the years, fraternization policies in the U.S. military have changed, but they broadly prohibit “unduly familiar” relationships among service members of differing ranks.
After pleading guilty to the fraternization charge, Cruz was reduced in rank from sergeant to corporal and restricted to the base. She also may leave the Marine Corps with an other-than-honorable discharge, meaning she could be stripped of almost all Veterans Affairs benefits and jeopardize future employment in the civilian sector.
Cruz’s lawyer, Capt. Jacob Johnston, said the commanding general of the 2nd Marine Division will decide if she receives an honorable discharge.
Of the roughly 184,000 active-duty Marines, about 15,800 are women. As of July, 24 women were serving in infantry billets in the Marine Corps, according to military documents obtained by The New York Times.
Cruz, of Fleischmanns, New York, joined the Marines as a supply clerk in 2013 and completed infantry training in 2014. Two years later, she requested to transfer to an infantry unit after then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter ordered that women be allowed in all previously restricted combat roles. The Marine Corps vehemently opposed the change.
Days after she arrived at the battalion in January 2017, she was promoted to sergeant — a rank that probably ensured, as a Marine in an infantry platoon, that she would be considered for a leadership role.
She said she began a relationship with a lower-ranking Marine in her unit and married him shortly before the battalion deployed to Japan in August 2017. Not until she was overseas did senior commanders become aware of the relationship, and opened an investigation.