CAMP PENDLETON – The U.S. Marine Corps was reported today to be taking steps to boot a Camp Pendleton-based sergeant out of the military for criticizing his top superior, the commander in chief.
Marine Sgt. Gary Stein, 26, of Temecula, said the Corps notified him Wednesday that he will be subject to administrative separation proceedings for making statements about the president ”that are prejudicial to good order and discipline” — a violation of Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, according to U-T San Diego.
Stein also stands accused of violating Defense Department rules when he created his ”Armed Forces Tea Party” web page on Facebook in 2010, the newspaper reported. The page has nearly 18,000 followers.
Under Defense Department rules, a service member can express personal views about politics but not as a representative of the Armed Forces.
Stein told U-T San Diego that he has done nothing wrong and that he believes the First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of speech trumps the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
A preliminary inquiry into Stein’s online activities was launched on March 8 by his commanding officer at the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot. Until this week, Stein worked as a weather forecaster at Camp Pendleton on behalf of the depot, according to U-T San Diego, which reported that he was reassigned Wednesday after being restricted from computer access at work.
Stein told the newspaper that he can’t remember exactly what he posted that spurred the controversy but paraphrased it as, ”I say screw Obama. I will not follow orders given by him to me.”
The comment was made on Stein’s Facebook page during an online debate about American troops potentially being tried for burning Korans in Afghanistan. He later added a comment to clarify he meant ”unlawful orders.”
It was unclear early today when the administrative separation proceedings against Stein would take place.
Stein faces a discharge under ”other than honorable” conditions, and might also have his rank reduced and be ordered to pay back some or all of his $45,000 in bonus money and education fees for real estate classes, according to U-T San Diego.