Fraternization in the Marine Corp

The Marine Corps is a brotherhood, and the bonds that form between Marines can last a lifetime.  Communication, respect, and trust are foundational to who the Marines are, and those strong foundations often lead to equally strong relationships—even between enlisted Marines and their officers. 

But not all relationships between Marines are beneficial to the Marine Corp as a whole.  Certain relationships can run deep—often treading into the personal and private. Interactions between officers and enlisted Marines are especially scrutinized by command and even by fellow enlisted Marines. 

When a relationship between an officer and an enlisted Marine strays into the familiar and personal, it leaves that officer open to accusations of fraternization.  This article describes the Marine Corp’s Fraternization policy in full, including information on proper and improper relationships and the consequences of a guilty verdict should you be requested to attend a court-martial.    

Relationships between officers and enlisted Marines which cross the line from professional to personal in nature are strictly prohibited by both the Marine Corp and the U.S. Military in general.  These types of personal relationships have a name—fraternization—and they are considered a criminal offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)

Fraternization broadly encompasses certain prohibited forms of communication between commissioned, non-commissioned, and warrant officers, and their enlisted Marine counterparts.  These actions and interactions can take many forms but have generally been described as relations which undermine the respect and professionalism between officers and enlisted, or that lead to accusations of bias or favoritism.  

Certain actions that commonly lead to charges of fraternization include dating, gambling, and evenings out with enlisted marines which become too frequent in nature.

The Fraternization Policy in the Marine Corp

The Uniform Code of Military Justice is the single most important source of information on fraternization.  Marines can access the Manual for Courts-Martial—the UCMJ’s handbook—for free online. Additionally, the Marine Corps Manual provides some relevant information specific to Marine officers.

  • Look for Article 134: Fraternization in the Punitive Articles of the UCMJ
  • An updated version of the Marine Corps Manual can be found here.  Information on fraternization can be found in Section B under Military Leadership. 

Defining Professional and Unprofessional Relationships in the Marine Corp and in the Military Generally

When a Marine officer is accused of fraternization, his command will almost certainly refer to the Manual for Courts Martial and the Marine Corps Manual.  Circumstance plays a major role in whether or not charges are brought against the officer. 

According to the Manual for Courts-Martial:

“Factors to be considered include whether the conduct has compromised the chain of command, resulted in the appearance of partiality, or otherwise undermined good order, discipline, authority, or morale. 

The acts and circumstances must be such as to lead a reasonable person experienced in the problems of military leadership to conclude that the good order and discipline of the armed forces has been prejudiced by their tendency to compromise the respect of enlisted persons for the professionalism, integrity, and obligations of an officer.”

Beyond a review of the circumstances, the command will also review the Marine’s policy on fraternization.  The Marine Corps Manual echoes the Manual for Courts-Martial in some respects, such as its take on personal relationships between officers and enlisted Marines:

“Personal relationships between officer and enlisted members that are unduly familiar and that do not respect differences in grade or rank constitute fraternization and are prohibited.”

Furthermore, marriage does not excuse an officer for fraternization which occurred in the past, according to the Manual:

The Marine Corps accepts officer/enlisted marriages which occur before the officer receives a commission or before the officer reverts to an enlisted grade. However, misconduct, including fraternization, is neither excused nor mitigated by subsequent marriage between the parties. Marines married to other Marines or to other Service members, or otherwise closely related (e.g., parent/child, siblings) shall maintain the requisite traditional respect and decorum attending the official military relationship between them while either is on duty, in uniform in public, or at official social functions.

But the manual also describes a bond between officers and enlisted members that runs deeper than the other branches of the armed forces:

  • The spirit of brotherhood between enlisted soldiers and officers “is too fine a thing to be allowed to die, according to Major General John A Lejeune, who wrote on these types of relationships almost 100 years ago.  “It should be made the moving force in all Marine Corps organizations.”
  • “The relation between officers and enlisted men should in no sense be that of superior and inferior nor that of master and servant, but rather that of teacher and scholar.  In fact, it should partake of the nature of the relationship between father and son, to the extent that officers, especially commanding officers, are responsible for the physical, mental, and moral welfare, as well as the discipline and military training of the young men under their command who are serving the nation in the Marine Corps.”

So while certain “unduly familiar” relationships are prohibited, the Marine Corps still believes that officers and enlisted Marines should maintain a personal bond that is both respectful and beneficial. 

The Consequences of Fraternization in the Marine Corp

Should an officer of the Marine Corp have charges brought against him for fraternization, the resulting trial could be devastating to his military career. Sentencing for a fraternization charge may include: 

  • Dismissal
  • Forfeiture of all pay and allowances
  • Confinement for 2 years

Charges of fraternization should never be idly ignored.  Officers are routinely taken to Court-Martial over fraternization offenses, and many of them lose their careers and their freedoms.  If you’re concerned about accusations of fraternization, don’t hesitate to reach out to the law firm of Bilecki Law Group today. 

Fraternization From The Other Branches of the Military

Find out more about fraternization under these branches of the military:

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