“The biggest mistakes I’ve made in the infantry were from my personal relationships.”
One of the first female infantry Marines, Corporal. Remedios Cruz, will be discharged from service after admitting to having a romantic relationship with a Marine under her command, whom she later married.
Cruz has been reduced in rank and will be separated from the Marine Corps according to an agreement reached with prosecutors, according to a Wednesday report by The New York Times. The agreement allowed Cruz to avoid court-martial on charges of fraternization, adultery, and accessory to larceny.
Although the charges against her are not uncommon in the military, they point out the difficulty the Marine Corps faces as it integrates more women into jobs that were previously only available to male service members.
In 2015, former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter directed his department to open all military roles to women, overriding a request by the Marine Corps to continue to exempt women from certain positions, including infantry. Carter later extended military service opportunities, allowing transgender soldiers to serve openly.
Cruz was one of the first three women who joined the First Battalion, Eighth Marines in January 2017, following the new military policy.
"I had a taste of what it was like to train to fight. And I felt like if I was going to say that I served my country, I wanted to be able to do just that -- but not on the sidelines," Cruz told The New York Times, explaining what drove her to serve.
“The biggest mistakes I’ve made in the infantry were from my personal relationships. I really want to move on,” she said.
In 2017, her future was looking bright. She was assigned to a battalion in January, and was quickly promoted to sergeant. Soon after, she entered a romantic relationship with one of the lower ranking Marines.
The two were soon married, before being deployed to Japan in August of 2017. They kept it a secret from senior commanders.
But the fact of their marriage finally came out, when the two were overseas, prompting her commander to open an investigation.
She was brought in for questioning and her superiors brought charges against her. She pleaded guilty to fraternization. As per the plea deal, Cruz's rank was reduced from sergeant to corporal and she was restricted to the base.
Cruz may also end up leaving the Marines with an other-than-honorable discharge. She's at risk of losing access to any Veterans Affairs benefits.
Her record could also limit her opportunities in civilian life.
Captain Jacob R. Johnston, Cruz's lawyer, said the commanding general of the Second Marine Division will make the determination as to whether she receives an honorable discharge.
"Regardless of the outcome of this case, Corporal Cruz has been a courageous pioneer for women in the military and she has earned a place in Marine Corps history," Johnston added.
Adam Johnson is an editorial intern at Pluralist.
You can reach him on Twitter: @4DAMDAVID