- Sgt. Joseph Johnson/Combat Camera Afghanistan
- Marine Brig. Gen. Norman Cooling is still with the corps despite a Pentagon report that said he created a toxic work environment for subordinates and demeaned women.
- The report found that Cooling said he would rather “have his daughter work in a brothel than be a pilot.”
- “That’s on the super extreme side of anything I’ve heard,” retired Marine pilot Kyleanne Hunter told INSIDER.
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A Marine general who “humiliated subordinates” and “devalued women” at his command, according to an official report, remains a leader in the Corps. His comments are triggering controversy for a service that has struggled with misogyny.
As of Wednesday, Brig. Gen. Norman Cooling was fired from his influential post but remains a leader in the Corps, according to a Marine Corps spokesperson.
Becoming a Marine aviator is extremely difficult, and women officers are less likely to complete flight training than their male counterparts. The Corps also has the smallest percentage of women serving in any of the armed services.
Cooling reportedly said he “would rather have his daughter work in a brothel than be a Marine pilot,” a comment that struck a former woman Marine pilot as “really unconscionable.”
Cooling was a legislative assistant to the commandant of the Marine Corps at the time the original complaints, made to the Senate Armed Services Committee, were given to the office of the secretary of defense last year.
He has disputed the report’s characterization of his conduct, which includes bullying, spreading rumors about a subordinate’s supposed sexual promiscuity, saying that women serving in combat positions negatively affected male Marines, and telling one woman noncommissioned officer (NCO) who expressed a desire to be a pilot that he “would rather have his daughter work in a brothel than be a Marine pilot.”
The NCO in question told investigators that Cooling’s comment wouldn’t affect her career plans. Cooling said his remark wasn’t problematic because the NCO wasn’t offended by it.
Women, who were barred from being Marine pilots until 1993, still face difficulties in the corps.
“There was definitely a pervasive culture where women were demeaned, and that happened, everything from initial training throughout the entirety of my career,” retired Marine pilot Kyleanne Hunter told INSIDER.
- US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Jason Monty
Hunter was commissioned in 2003 and flew an AH-1W Super Cobra in combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan before leaving the Corps in 2012. She is now vice president of programs at Brady, an anti-gun-violence organization.
Hunter said she was fortunate to have commanders that believed in her abilities and demanded she be treated with respect. But Cooling’s comments about woman Marine pilots were “on the super extreme side of anything I’ve heard,” Hunter told INSIDER.
“It’s really unconscionable that it’s that bad. Being a Marine Corps pilot is a hard job. It’s a job that … you have to take risks. You have to be bold. You have to be good at what you do,” Hunter said. “I would hope that every father would be proud if their child, no matter the gender, but especially their daughters, took a bold stance to serve their country, be great, and do some of the hardest things that you could possibly do.”
The continued notion that “women only have a purpose to please men … undermines the whole ability of women to lead, women to be in strategic decision making positions, and undermines the effectiveness and real benefits and value add that women bring throughout their time in the service,” Hunter added.
“Unfortunately what we see too often is that the senior ranking officers are still allowed to retire from this,” she said of officers who exhibit the kind of behavior attributed to Cooling.
Cooling was removed from his post and reassigned to be the director of plans and strategy in the Marine Corps headquarters’ plans, policy, and operations department on February 27, 2018. He is still in the position.
“I think it’s good that he’s taken out of the job, but I think there should be more severe punishment,” Hunter said.
A Marine Corps spokesperson told INSIDER that the Corps “takes all allegations of misconduct seriously, regardless of rank” and that the service was reviewing the inspector general’s report “and will take appropriate action in light of the substantiated misconduct.”
Cooling did not respond to INSIDER’s request for comment, but several of his own characterizations of his behavior are included in the report. In one response, he described an incident in which he said women were naturally better schedulers as a “compliment.”