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Marines Release First-Ever Ad Spotlighting Woman In Combat Position

The Marine Corps has released a recruiting ad that, for the first time, focuses on a female Marine in combat.

The commercial comes as the Corps faces intense scrutiny over sexism within its ranks, including a scandal over male Marines sharing nude photos of female Marines without the women's consent.

The commercial — called "Battle Up" — shows a young girl standing up to bullies, playing rugby in the rain and growing up to be a Marine. In the ad, she powers through an obstacle course and engages in a firefight as a voice-over describes the "fighting spirit." In the final scene, she helps with outreach to the homeless.

The woman in the ad is played by a Marine who served in Afghanistan, Capt. Erin Demchko. The Associated Press spoke with her about the experience. Here's the wire service on the goal of the ad:

"For a Corps that has struggled with the perception that it is the least welcoming of women among the military services, the new ad is part of a campaign to appeal to a new generation of Marines. It is also a bid for more female recruits for 'the few, the proud,' particularly athletes capable of meeting the tough physical standards required.

" 'The water was 27 degrees and coated with a layer of thick ice,' said Marine Capt. Erin Demchko, describing the great difficulty of the [gantlet], all while being surrounded by camera crews. 'Giving the film production staff what they wanted, while maintaining my bearing as a Marine officer and trying not to look cold, was a challenge.'

"Demchko, a deputy commander at Camp Courtney in Okinawa, Japan, is part of the Marine Corps' expanding effort to recruit women. The smallest military service has the lowest percentage of women and wants at least 10 percent representation by 2019. While female Marines occasionally have appeared in ads and been featured in online videos, this is the first time a woman is the focus of a national television commercial for the Corps."

Maj. Gen. Paul Kennedy, the head of Marine Corps Recruiting Command, told the AP that the goal of the commercial is to show recruits that the Marines aren't "only looking for a few good men."

"We're actually using all of our recurring efforts to find good women as well," he told the wire service.

The ad was released online Friday. It will be airing on TV later this month, reports Task & Purpose, a news site for veterans.

As NPR reported earlier this year, hundreds of Marines are under investigation for reportedly distributing nude photos of female service members and veterans to a Facebook group with thousands of members. Bill Chappell wrote about the scandal in March:

"When the photos were shared via Marines United — a Facebook group that's intended for male Marines and Marine veterans only — they drew bawdy and obscene comments, according to two nonprofit news sites, the War Horse and the Center for Investigative Reporting.

"According to War Horse founder Thomas James Brennan, many of the photos on the Marines United page included personal information about the female service members, from their name, rank and duty station to the names of their social media accounts.

"The Facebook page also included links to a Google Drive with even more images — and an invitation to any members to contribute photos. The images were obtained in a variety of ways, Brennan reports, from sharing by former partners to stalking and, potentially, the hacking of service members' personal accounts."

Last month, Maj. Janine Garner spoke to NPR about the harassment she has received from other Marines online after an innocuous photo — of her and seven other female Marines smiling in uniform — was shared on a Facebook group.

"I watched in real time as hundreds of people commented on this photo and said things like they wanted to rape us," she told All Things Considered. "And these were leaders in the Marine Corps. ... The problem is the treatment of one Marine to another, and that is completely unacceptable and goes against our core ethos and values."

Garner suggested that increasing the number of women in the Marine Corps — currently about 7 percent of the force — would be one way to combat the culture of sexism.

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Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.