JACKSONVILLE, NC, UNITED STATES
11.30.2020
Story by Lance Cpl. Chase Drayer 
2nd Marine Division 

Marines and Sailors inherently know the risks associated with taking drugs – non-judicial punishment, court martial, and even separation under other-than-honorable conditions, but, recently, the 2d Marine Division (2d MARDIV) has made a significant changes toward effectively identifying those who fail to heed the ‘Corps’ longstanding zero-tolerance policy.

From day one, every recruit’s first footsteps at boot camp lead him or her to a sign displaying: “Marine Corps Policy on Drugs: Drugs will not be tolerated.”

Despite this clarion call for abstinence, some Marines and Sailors make the choice to use, and in particular to use the recreation drug lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD.

“We have a drug problem in the 2d Marine Division,” said Maj. Gen. Francis L. Donovan, commanding general of 2d Marine Division. “We are changing the way in which we test for illegal substances.”

Previously, the Department of Defense drug lab only accepted individual samples for testing of LSD, pursuant to law enforcement requests. This meant you would have to have already had some form of probable cause for search, and not just a random screening as the basis for the test; however, all that changed following recent incidents involving either Marines or Sailors violating policy and using LSD.

“We are committed to identifying violators of our ethos,” Donovan said. “The vast majority of Marines within the 2d Marine Division routinely uphold our core values, and they deserve to know that the Marines to their left and right are doing the same.”

In order to continue to uphold its high standard as a premier fighting force, 2d MARDIV has begun conducting random LSD testing – nearly 4,000 LSD tests since the start of this past summer.

“Zero tolerance is the Marine Corps’ stance, and Marines need to understand that there is no drug that they can take without the means for government detection,” said Lt. Col. Christian Ruwe, the staff judge advocate for 2d MARDIV.

If a Marine tests positive – and several have, he or she faces the risk of a non-judicial punishment, a dishonorable discharge, or even time at a military corrections facility.

“At the end of the day, it’s about trust,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Christopher Rebana, command master chief of 2d Marine Division. “I have to trust that those on my port and starboard are bringing their ‘A’ game, physically and mentally, and both in garrison and in combat.”
Because LSD hasn’t traditionally been tested for by the Marine Corps, 2d MARDIV, in its effort to identify and hold accountable drug policy violators, resourced the help of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System (AFMES) lab in Dover, Delaware, to conduct large-quantity random LSD testing. This testing led to numerous positive results; consequently, going forward, 2d MARDIV plans to conduct random testing, locally and on a more consistent basis.

LSD screening hasn’t traditionally been standard practice across the Department of Defense. The push to make common testing the norm within 2d MARDIV not only makes the division a leader in striving to maintain its preeminent battle readiness, but also allows the division to set an example for others wishing to eradicate drugs within their ranks to follow. Leaders say it’s all about ethos and non-negotiable standards.
“If we don’t uphold the standard, we just set a new one,” Rebana said.
Second MARDIV leadership encourages service members with knowledge of this type of illegal activity occurring to report it to their respective chains of command, according to Sgt. Maj. Daniel Krause, 2d Marine Division sergeant major. He, too, sees no place for drug use within the 2d MARDIV.

“Neither I nor any Marine or Sailor from the ‘Follow Me’ Division can trust someone using drugs to protect their flank,” Krause said. “We have no spot in our formations for drug users.”

The 53-year-old hospital analyst and political activist allegedly provided money and tactical advice to the al-Nusra Front

FBI agents arrested a New Jersey woman early Wednesday on federal charges of providing material support to the al-Nusra Front, a terrorist group described as al-Qaeda in Syria.

Maria Bell, 53, of Hopatcong, is charged with providing material support to the al-Nusra Front, also known as the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which operates in northwest Syria. A search of her home Wednesday morning turned up a significant cache of weapons.

Bell served in the U.S. Army National Guard and on active duty in the Army for a total of 14 months from late 1984 to early 1986.  She received an “other than honorable discharge” in lieu of a court martial, according to court papers.

Between 2017 and 2018 she allegedly used encrypted applications to communicate with one HTS member with whom she had an online relationship. She allegedly gave advice on the purchase of weapons and ammunition, planned to meet him in Turkey, and sent him money.

Bell — who was previously stopped by the FBI from traveling to Turkey — was planning to fly to Egypt on Wednesday and then on to Istanbul, according to an FBI affidavit filed Tuesday.

She appeared via videoconference in federal court in Newark Wednesday afternoon, and was ordered detained without bail. Not date has been set for a future hearing. Bell’s attorney declined to comment.

“Have no doubt, we believe she was a threat to New Jersey and certainly our country,” said New Jersey Homeland Security Director Jared Maples.

“No matter what anyone looks like, no matter what religion they practice, that’s not what factors into this. The behaviors factor into this and I think this case is one of the clearest examples of that,” Maples said. “You don’t get to pick who you dislike, that they dislike. They all hate us. They hate our way of life. They certainly are espousing ideologies to attack Americans and certainly something that we are on point and worried about.”

Bell’s employer, Atlantic Health System, where she worked as an analyst, said she has been suspended. She was also chair of the New Jersey Libertarian Party’s northern New Jersey branch. The party, in a statement, said its board removed her from her position and cancelled her membership, and it condemned violence as well.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the single charge of concealment of terrorist financing to a designated foreign terrorist organization carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Honor Code.jpg
The Air Force Academy’s Honor Code is displayed on the school’s terrazzo. Gazette file photo

By O’Dell Isaac Nov 21, 2020

An Air Force Academy cadet was found guilty of sexual misconduct in a court-martial Saturday, the academy said.

A Cadet was brought before the military court on charges of abusive sexual contact and assault consummated by battery, the release reported.

The cadet was accused of forcing a woman to touch his genitals in April, according to a report.

Given the choice between facing a panel of military members or a single military judge, he chose the judge, according to the release. The judge found him guilty of abusive sexual contact but dropped the battery charge.

The cadet was sentenced to 45 days confinement and will be dismissed from the academy, officials said.

Sexual assault reports at the country’s five service academies went up 32% last year, according to a January report from the Pentagon. The Air Force Academy had a 42% increase in such reports.

The academy has been working to prevent sexual misconduct and to provide a safe space for victims to report such crimes without fear of backlash, officials said.

“The Academy remains committed to ensure every cadet, faculty and staff members are treated with dignity, honor and respect,” the release stated.

Source Stars and Stripes

Nov. 17—AUSTIN, Texas — Despite service members reporting more sexual assaults over the past decade, courts-martial and convictions for the charge have declined, according to an investigation airing this week on CBS News.

“What we have uncovered are what we call consequential failures by leaders to change a pervasive culture of sexual assault in the military,” said Norah O’Donnell, CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor, who led the year-and-a-half long investigation. “The bottom line is it’s time for ‘Me Too’ movement in the military.”

O’Donnell and the CBS Investigative Unit interviewed nearly two dozen victims and three whistleblowers who worked for the military sexual assault and harassment prevention program. The four-part series begins Tuesday on “CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell” and will also air on “CBS This Morning.”

“I love and respect the military. This is not the values that the U.S. military espouses. To either have service members commit this abuse or to not hold accountable those who commit this abuse,” said O’Donnell, whose father served as an Army officer and doctor. “What we are really trying to uncover is not only to tell the stories of the men and women who have been abused and harassed after reporting the abuse, but also to look at question of why does this still continue? What is the problem?”

By poring over hundreds of pages of court documents, criminal investigations and reports, the investigative unit uncovered that the number of cases of sexual assault in the military has doubled in the last 10 years. A fiscal year 2019 report from the Pentagon shows 7,825 sexual assault reports involving service members as victims or subjects, a 3% increase compared to 2018.

An anonymous workplace survey — the 2018 Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of Active-Duty Members — found that 20,473 service members said they experienced sexual assault within the past year — an increase of 38% from 14,900 in fiscal year 2016, when the survey was last conducted.

The workplace survey also found that 64% women who reported a sexual assault said they experienced retaliation.

Of those who reported assaults in 2019, 57 victims said they faced retaliation because of the report, according to the investigation. Only one of those cases went to court-martial.

“It’s good that the reporting structure exists and that more and more people are feeling comfortable about reporting it,” O’Donnell said. “But has that lead to more courts-martial? No. We found fewer courts-martial, which doesn’t seem to make sense. If there are more reports wouldn’t statistically there be more courts-martial?”

At the same time, administrative actions have risen, showing that more commanders are looking for routes outside of the military justice system to deal with sexual assault and rape reports, according to the investigation. These actions are kept within personnel files and don’t require judicial punishments such as registering as a sex offender.

Of the nearly two dozen victims interviewed, four chose to speak on camera, O’Donnell said. The parents of another service member, Army Pvt. Nicole Burnham, also spoke to her on camera.

They described how their daughter died by suicide after being raped and then harassed and threatened by other soldiers for reporting the crime. The assaults occurred while serving in Korea, and Burnham’s parents said it took 82 days for the Army to approve an expedited transfer back to the U.S. During that time Burnham told her parents she had no resources or support available to her.

“Many of the victims are so grateful to be heard and that someone cares about what’s happened to them. That someone views their story as worthy to tell,” O’Donnell said. “These are incredibly strong women and then they did not receive the support they deserve.”

Meanwhile, the Defense Department has spent tens of millions of dollars to address the issue, O’Donnell said. The three whistleblowers interviewed for the report were hired to work at different military bases for the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.

“I think the breadth and the depth of the problem is so large that they really don’t want the general public to understand that they don’t have it under control,” one said.

The whistleblowers said that the people there to help victims are themselves being retaliated against or in some cases fired or reprimanded for doing their job.

“Then you realize the complexity of just how hard it is to report sexual abuse, to get support when you report sexual abuse and to not face additional harassment and additional reprimand,” O’Donnell said. “It was another layer of this reporting to just prove how difficult it is to get through this system.”

One whistleblower also explained that because the military is like a family, reporting sexual assault can feel more emotional, because it divides the family.

“That’s the cultural part and why some believe that’s why the reporting structure has to be taken either outside the military or taken to a more independent body,” O’Donnell said, noting that the case of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén has reignited these calls even after legislation mandating these reforms has failed to get through the Senate since 2014.

Guillén was reported missing April 22 from Fort Hood, Texas, and national media covered the more than two-month search for her. Law enforcement found the soldier’s body buried and concealed in concrete along a river about 20 miles from the base.

During the search for Guillén, her family said she had faced sexual harassment on base, but she was too afraid to report it to her chain of command. After Spc. Aaron Robinson was identified as her killer, the family said he was her harasser.

Guillén’s case triggered a new bill that would make sexual harassment a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and overhaul the handling of sexual assault allegations. Titled the I am Vanessa Guillén Act of 2020, the bill has 180 cosponsors in the House.

While much of O’Donnell’s reporting preceded Guillén’s case, she said the soldier’s story is important because “it’s brought the attention that this subject matter deserves.”

Like Guillén, many of the women O’Donnell spoke to told her that joining the military had been a lifelong goal and career, but instead they “faced rape and assault.”

“We are bringing to light the emotional sacrifice that many of these women have faced, to then press forward on what needs to change and what is it going to take to change that,” O’Donnell said. “This type of abuse and criminal behavior is at odds with what the military stands for.”

The Defense Department declined an on-camera interview with CBS. In separate statements, the individual military branches all said they are committed to stopping sexual assault within their ranks.

A Coast Guard Academy cadet has resigned from the service after he was found guilty of assaulting a classmate, a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The Academy cadet was initially charged with abusive sexual contact related to an April 2019 incident that occurred on the academy’s campus. Under the UCMJ, “abusive sexual contact” is defined as unlawful touching of another person with the intent to abuse, humiliate, harass or degrade any person or to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.

The incident involved two victims, both cadets. However, the charges involving one of the victims were dropped “based on concerns regarding the sufficiency of the evidence to obtain and sustain a conviction,” the Coast Guard said.  “As a result, Cadet Clancy’s case was referred to court-martial, and he was ultimately taken to mast for the charges related to the remaining victim.”

The Coast Guard declined to disclose any further details about the incident or what happened.

Superintendent Rear Adm. Bill Kelly, at a nonjudicial punishment hearing on Nov. 10, found Clancy had committed assault consummated by battery, also a violation of the UCMJ.

Kelly issued the cadet a punitive letter of reprimand, which detailed his misconduct, 60 days’ restriction and forfeiture of half of one month’s pay for two months with both the restriction and forfeiture provisions of the punishment suspended, given the cadet voluntarily resigned his cadet appointment.

The cadet received a general discharge from the Coast Guard, an administrative discharge usually given to service members who have engaged in minor misconduct or have received nonjudicial punishments.

A general discharge can result in the loss of certain educational benefits as well as the denial of certain rights and privileges available to honorably discharged veterans under applicable federal and state laws.