United States Marine Corps

Human Punching Bag

A local boxer and a member of the United States Marine Corps boxing team spars at the Bruce's Boxing gym in North Austin on Tuesday night. The gym, started by Bruce Acuna 10 years ago, attracts amateur and professional fighters from all over Central Texas and often hosts the USMC Boxing team when they travel through the area.

Marine Sgt. Gary Stein speaks with reporters in front of the federal court building Friday, April 13, 2012, in San Diego. U.S. District Judge Marilyn Huff on Friday, April 13, 2012 denied a request to block discharge proceedings of Stein, who faces being kicked out of the military and loss of benefits for criticizing President Barack Obama on Facebook.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — A sergeant will be discharged for criticizing President Barack Obama on Facebook in a case that called into question the Pentagon’s policies about social media and its limits on the speech of active duty military personnel, the Marine Corps said Wednesday.

Sgt. Gary Stein will get an other-than-honorable discharge and lose most of his benefits for violating the policies, the Corps said.

The San Diego-area Marine who has served nine years in the Corps said he was disappointed, and argued that he was exercising his constitutional rights to free speech.
“I love the Marine Corps, I love my job. I wish it wouldn’t have gone this way. I’m having a hard time seeing how 15 words on Facebook could have ruined my nine-year career,” he told The Associated Press.

Gary Kreep, an attorney for Stein, said he would pursue administrative appeals within the Marine Corps but anticipates the effort will fail. He said he planned to file an amended complaint in federal court.

“As long as he wants to pursue this, we will be supporting him,” said Kreep, who is executive director of the United States Justice Foundation, an advocacy group.
The Marines acted after saying Stein stated March 1 on a Facebook page used by Marine meteorologists, “Screw Obama and I will not follow all orders from him.” Stein later clarified, saying he would not follow unlawful orders.
Brig. Gen. Daniel Yoo, the commanding general of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, said Wednesday that evidence supported a recommendation to
discharge Stein.

Tom Umberg, a former Army colonel and military prosecutor, believes the decision to discharge Stein will have limited impact because the vast majority of Marines would never consider such postings.

“I think 99 percent of the soldiers and Marines currently on duty understand the duties of supporting the chain of command and understand their rights of free speech are limited,” he said. “To that 1 percent who don’t know their rights to free speech are limited once they take the oath, this is a loud and
clear message.”

Printed on Thursday, April 26, 2012 as: Case explores military free speech
 

SAN DIEGO — Marine Sgt. Gary Stein first started a Facebook page called Armed Forces Tea Party Patriots to encourage service members to exercise their free speech rights. Then he declared that he wouldn’t follow “unlawful” orders from the commander in chief, President Barack Obama.

The Marine Corps is determining if he violated the military’s rules prohibiting political statements by those in uniform and broke guidelines regarding social media. Stein said his views are constitutionally protected.

“I think that it’s been pretty well established for a long time that freedom of speech is one area in which people do surrender some of their basic rights in entering the armed forces,” said former Navy officer David Glazier. “Good order and discipline require the military maintain respect for the chain of command. That includes prohibiting speech critical of the senior officers in that chain of command — up to and including the commander in chief.”

According to Pentagon directives, military personnel in uniform can’t sponsor a political club; participate in any TV or radio program or group discussion that advocates for or against a political party, candidate or cause; or speak at any event promoting a political movement. Commissioned officers also may not use contemptuous words against senior officials.

Last week, Stein said his superiors told him he couldn’t use social media sites on government computers after he posted the message.

Stein said his statement was part of an online debate about NATO allowing U.S. troops to be tried for the Quran burnings in Afghanistan. In that context, he said, he was stating that he would not follow orders from the president if those orders included detaining U.S. citizens, disarming them or doing anything else that he believes would violate their constitutional rights. Stein said he respects the office of the president, but he does not agree with Obama’s policies.

“Just because I’m a Marine doesn’t mean I don’t have free speech or can’t say my personal opinion about the president or other public official just like anybody else,” Stein said. “The Constitution trumps everything else.”

Stein said it’s positive when service members are well-versed on the Constitution and current events.

“When we know what we’re fighting for, we fight harder,” he said.

The Marine Corps said Stein is allowed to express his personal opinions, but not in his official capacity as a Marine. Spokesman Maj. Michael Armistead said the Corps is taking a closer look to ensure Stein has not crossed that line.

“At this time, he has not been asked to take down the statement on his page,” he said.

Marine Sgt. Jerret Wright, who liked Stein’s page, said Stein “probably skirted the line a little bit” with his latest message, but his boldness has been refreshing in a community that often feels silenced.

“People assume that we’re zombies with an on-and-off switch, and that we listen to orders and do nothing else,” Wright said.

Military observers point out that the Pentagon policy is necessary in preventing political and religious debates that could divide a unit and disrupt the strong working relationship that is needed to carry out missions, Glazier said.

“There are plenty of examples in the world of militaries heavily involved in influencing political events that have shown that is not conducive to civilian rule of law,” he said.

Printed on Thursday, March 8, 2012 as: Marine's Facebook page starts debate on military free speech

News Briefly

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — A Marine Corps helicopter crashed Wednesday afternoon at the sprawling coastal base of Camp Pendleton, injuring the six personnel aboard.

The helicopter belonging to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Camp Pendleton went down at about noon in the northern section of the San Diego County base, said 1st Lt. Maureen Dooley, a spokeswoman at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

Officials did not immediately release details about the injuries.

At least three of the injured were taken to nearby Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla in San Diego, about 30 miles south of the base, hospital spokeswoman Lisa Ohmstede said. She said she also couldn’t discuss their injuries and she didn’t know what other hospitals took in patients from the crash.

The UH-1Y helicopter, known as a Yankee Huey is a modernized variant of the decades-old UH-1 design by Bell Helicopters.

Wednesday was sunny and hot in the county so it was unclear if weather played a role. Dooley said there will be an investigation into the cause of the incident.