(CNN) -- Faced with a sex scandal in his ranks, the chief of Australia's army delivered a blunt message to his troops: Treat your female comrades properly or "get out."
Lt. Gen. David Morrison announced last week that three soldiers had been suspended and he was weighing action against five others implicated in the distribution of videos he called ''demeaning, explicit and profane." In a follow-up statement posted on the service's YouTube page, Morrison told soldiers that female troops "are vital to us maintaining our capability now and into the future."
"If that does not suit you, then get out," he said. "You may find another employer where your attitude and behavior is acceptable, but I doubt it. The same goes for those who think that toughness is built on humiliating others."
Australian women began serving in auxiliary units and as nurses in the early 20th century and were integrated into the armed services in noncombat units in the 1970s and '80s. They were allowed to join combat units in 2011, and female troops "have proven themselves worthy of the best traditions of the Australian army," Morrison said.
"No one has ever explained to me how the exploitation or degradation of others enhances capability or honors the traditions of the Australian army," he said in his message to the troops. "I will be ruthless in ridding the army of people who cannot live up to its values, and I need every one of you to support me in achieving this."
Australian news outlets reported last week that at least 17 soldiers circulated video of themselves having sex with women. The videos were shared without the women's knowledge. Some of the material was distributed over military computer networks, and those under investigation include a lieutenant colonel and a major, Morrison told reporters on Thursday.
The distribution dates back to 2010, and another 90 people "may have been on the periphery" of the group's e-mail exchanges, he said. Military investigators and the New South Wales state police are conducting the probe, and Morrison said he had apologized to some of the women involved.