The UCMJ has plenty of Articles that cover the use of social media and off-duty behavior. If a soldier violates those Articles, he shouldn't be surprised when disciplinary measures are taken.

I didn’t want to have to cover Marine Sgt. Gary Stein, but because it’s popping up on conservative blogs I will. Long story short: Sgt. Stein isn’t a fan of President Obama. He made comments on his personal Facebook page, titled ‘Armed Forces Tea Party,’ over the past few years regarding not following orders (later amended to read that he wouldn’t follow “unlawful orders”) and others about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (i.e., Obamacare). And so, the following has transpired:

The Marine Corps has initiated disciplinary action against a Marine sergeant for comments he posted on his “Armed Forces Tea Party” Facebook page criticizing President Barack Obama, a spokesman said on Thursday.

Sergeant Gary Stein, 26, a weather forecaster assigned to Camp Pendleton near San Diego, cast the Marines’ reaction to his comments as an infringement on his freedom of speech and defended his right to express personal political opinions when he is off-duty and out of uniform.

Sergeant Stein knows that the Uniform Code of Military Justice covers social media and a soldier’s behavior in public, specifically Articles 88, 89, 91, 133 and 134. He also knows that when your Facebook page is titled “Armed Forces Tea Party” that it is a “no go” at the social media station. The guy is “chewed up” as the phrase goes, and I say that knowing we’d probably vote for the same candidate on election day. I partly attribute Sgt. Stein’s lack of military manner to the fact that he isn’t in a line unit. What else do you expect from a military weatherman? But I digress…

The knee-jerk reaction by some conservatives will be to try and defend this guy simply because he takes pot shots at Barack Obama—the Commander in Chief—on his Facebook page, and considers himself a member of the Tea Party. If the evidence shows that Sgt. Stein is in violation of the UCMJ, than conservatives should shut their mouths and let it do its job. I’ve written about this before. It’s worked for well over 50 years, and will continue to do so.

One of the things the left and the right does is to try and shield their military spokesmen from criticism by citing the person’s service at some point during an argument. Doing that is not only annoying—it’s wrong. That’s what race hustlers do with skin color, and that’s what liberal feminists do with gender. Trying to inoculate soldiers from the slings and arrows of intellectual combat like liberals do for their stable of protected groups is never a good idea. Soldiers needed to be protected from unfair attacks and characterizations, and that’s it.

Once someone joins the military the whole game changes. Once you put on a uniform you must comport yourself in a radical new way, and you must abide by the UCMJ. Case closed. A soldier must keep his military manner at all times, and if he doesn’t like it he doesn’t need to reenlist. There are plenty of soldiers who need defending out there, and it isn’t wise to circle the wagons too fast on a guy who seems to have knowingly caused trouble with his chain of command.


About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.


  1. Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children have a propensity for engaging the mouth before the brain is in gear.

    When you sign on the line, you are the military’s contract mule and have to play by the rules, which include leaving most of your civilian rights behind.

    Stein didn’t.

    End of message.

    “So we’re surrounded. Good. Now we can fire in any direction” — Chesty Puller, USMC

  2. That’s pretty much the bottom line. Once you sign, Uncle Sam owns you. Don’t sign up if you don’t like being told what to do. The UCMJ had stuff in it that I didn’t agree with years ago, but too bad. Like you said, you have to play by their rules or go home.

    1. The President is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces; ergo, he/she is not just in the chain of command, but at the top of it. Article 134 could be a lesser included offense of the germain violation – Article 88.

  3. Wow. That’s all you got? I said, “that covers social media and a soldier’s behavior in public,” not, “that applies to Stg. Stein and the exact details surrounding his case.” I don’t know all the specifics of the case and you probably don’t either. The point is, the UCMJ has rules, and he knows when he is in violation of them. Nice red herring. That’s what we call “Not bringing your ‘A’ game,” my anonymous friend. Next.

  4. None of the articles mentioned apply to Sgt. Stein. With an outside exception of 134, Articles 88, 89, 91, 133 all deal with either misconduct of officers or misconduct / disrespect to a commissioned or warrant officer by a subordinate. Sgt Stein is a non-commissioned officer for which none of these articles apply unless one considers his comments as bringing discredit upon the military which would be quite a stretch since he merely is voicing his opinion about the President who although is the Commander in Chief is not a commissioned officer. So, the assumption that the UCMJ will take care of this and that it is ‘Case Closed’ is merely speculative at best. As a former commissioned officer in the U.S. Army, it was my job to know this.

  5. Rich,

    Forgive me if I think that the standards of officers detailed in 88,89,91, and 133 are relevant to the situation, since when Bush was President there were a few losers (commissioned and non-commissioned officers) who tried to pull similar stunts with deployments, public comments, etc. And yes, Article 134—which includes good order and discipline—definitely seems to apply, given what limited knowledge is known about the case. Sgt. Stein could have avoided much of this if he simply chose to leave “Armed Forces” out of the Facebook page. He made a conscious decision to go that route, and now he’s unhappy with the fallout. Too bad.

    Notice the qualifier I put into my post (i.e., “if the evidence shows”). You may also have a problem paying attention to detail, since the title makes no assumption of guilt—only that the UCMJ works and that the proper verdict will be rendered. Either way, Sgt. Stein will get what he deserves. So yes, case closed.

    I wrote that the knee jerk reaction to defend this guy simply because he’s a Marine or because he hates Obama is a bad move, since all the details are not available. But what is known is that this has been an ongoing problem, and he exacerbated it needlessly. If he were smart, this could have been avoided. I don’t put my money on dumb.

  6. Take and digest the article as a whole and it is correct. The outcome will most likely result in battalion NJP, coviction with a reduction of 1 rank, dismissal due to high year tenure. Free speech has limits in the military. You cannot challenge your chain of command and expect there will be no consequences.

  7. We just continue to eat our own! Just like what the Brass did to Col. Alan West. Just like they did to 1st Lt. Michael Behenna. Don’t ask our young Men and Women to die for us, destory their lives forever just to satisfy come damn Brass who wants another Bar on his collar. Or to suck up to DC in hopes they will get noticed. I have seen this happen time and time again. If I had a Son you can bet your sweet rear I would not allow him to join after living with a retired Military Officer for 26 yrs. of service. I seen to much, know to much. There is a lot wrong with this Country’s Military today and there is no honor in serving those that are self serving themselves.

  8. Gentlemen, let me help you. Have any of you EVER served in military law? I served retired in 2002 after 20 years of service. The UCMJ is a large, one-page small print document, much like the constitution. The Manual For Courts-Martial (MCM) (980 small type pages) is the governing document for administration of the UCMJ, including clarification and guidance for the Punitive Articles. Though Article 134 is classified as a General Article, it is not a ‘catch-all’ as is popularly (incorrectly) believed. Section IV of the MCM, Chapter 72. is titled Article 134-(Disloyal Statements).

    72. Article 134—(Disloyal statements)
    a. Text of statute. See paragraph 60.
    b. Elements.
    (1) That the accused made a certain statement;
    (2) That the statement was communicated to another person;
    (3) That the statement was disloyal to the United States;
    (4) That the statement was made with the intent to promote disloyalty or disaffection toward the United States by any member of the armed forces or to interfere with or impair the loyalty to the United States or good order and discipline of any member of the armed forces; and
    (5) That, under the circumstances, the conduct of the accused was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or was of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.
    c. Explanation. Certain disloyal statements by military personnel may not constitute an offense under 18U.S.C. §§ 2385, 2387, and 2388, but may, under the circumstances, be punishable under this article.
    Examples include praising the enemy, attacking the war aims of the United States, or denouncing our form of government with the intent to promote disloyalty or disaffection among members of the armed services. A declaration of personal belief can amount to a disloyal statement if it disavows allegiance owed to the United States by the declarant.
    The disloyalty involved for this offense must be to the United States as a political entity and not merely to a department or other agency that is a part of its administration.
    d. Lesser included offense. Article 80—attempts
    e. Maximum punishment. Dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 3 years.
    f. Sample specification.
    In that _______________(personal jurisdiction data), did, (at/onboard — location), on or about________ 20____, with intent to (promote (disloyalty) (disaffection) (disloyalty and disaffection)) ((interfere with) (impair) the (loyalty) (good order and discipline)) of any member of the armed forces of the United States communicate to______________, the following statement, to wit: “_____________________,” or words to that effect, which statement was disloyal to the United States.

    Sorry to be so lengthy, but the one article stands alone, and completely sums up the entire argument. Bottom line, he could have gotten a dishonorable discharge, but received an OTH, and could have been confined (military) for up to 3 years.

    Additionally, most are rarely sternly punished for a first offense. Even more difficult to understand, he had 9 years in… tell me he did not understand the rule the UCMJ held over his life. All joking aside, marines are not that stupid… He may not have realized how thin the ice was that he was treading upon, but after the first, second, and however many subsequent warnings he may have gotten, he should have figured it out. Lastly, Obama is a hothead socialist… Stein knew that, and any whiff of something like this, Obama would be on him. So there you have it, an active duty marine, with a FB post (gee, who can see that???) and an active Obama image PR group policing social media, and you get the book thrown at you.

    You serve in the military, you forfeit all rights you may have had before. It is thoroughly ingrained into you in boot camp/basic… or at least it used to be…

  9. sorry to repost so soon, but this makes my point:

    Tom Umberg, a former Army colonel and military prosecutor, said Stein persisted even after being warned.

    “The Marine Corps gave him the opportunity to think about his actions, yet Sgt. Stein continued to undermine the chain of command,” said Umberg.

    During a hearing, a military prosecutor submitted screen grabs of Stein’s postings on one Facebook page he created called Armed Forces Tea Party, which the prosecutor said included the image of Obama on a “Jackass” movie poster. Stein also superimposed Obama’s image on a poster for “The Incredibles” movie that he changed to “The Horribles,” military prosecutor Capt. John Torresala said.

    At the hearing this month at Camp Pendleton, Torresala argued that Stein’s behavior repeatedly violated Pentagon policy and he should be dismissed after ignoring warnings from his superiors about his postings

    Read more:

    1. See, that’s the key. His superiors tried to warn him. They gave him just enough rope to hang himself .. and he did. But it was his choice. If he didn’t like what the military was telling him to do he could have bit his lip and left peacefully. Instead, he made a jackass out of himself.

      If you challenge the chain of command, they will bring you down. Do your time and get out on good terms if you don’t like it. Don’t make a spectacle of yourself.

  10. I think that Stein (who knows what his exact status is at this moment, Sgt. LCpl., or civilian) may be getting exactly what he wanted. Attention and to make a point. I’m sure that he got “counseled” several times before he was “dealt with”. It is also clear that he disregarded the efforts to keep him out of trouble. Our service people must be conditioned to follow virtually all orders immediately, completely, and without question if the military is to accomplish it’s mission. Executing some of these orders has/will lead to the ultimate sacrifice. That, simply, is the nature of the occupation.

    My concern is that, the way the situation was handled, Stein may have gotten what he really wanted. His real goals may have been to get himself in the “limelight” and to cause the USMC (Armed Forces) appear to be “undemocratic” and egregious violators of what most of us consider one of our most sacred rights, “Freedom of Speech”.

    If it was clear that Stein had violated the UCMJ, Courts Martial him and sentence him to an appropriate punishment.

    If a conviction was doubtful perhaps it would have been wiser to have taken the path of “least resistance”. Contain him for the moment. I’m sure that an assignment could be found for Stein that would eliminate his access to the internet. Perhaps a posting at a remote, recently created, guard shack in the outer reaches of Mongolia. When his enlistment expired, gracefully decline his request for reenlistment. As I understand it his current enlistment was nearly up. One could certainly argue that a denial of his reenlistment request was a result of the recent wars winding down and the “reduction in force” that the military is being forced to undergo.

    Perhaps the USMC is making an example of him as Stein is not alone in this behavior and a message needs to be sent to other members of the Armed Forces that this behavior can not and will not be tolerated. I have no idea if this is the case or not as I have no idea if there is a growing problem of this nature in our Armed Forces.

    The Administrative Discharge Board recommended that Stein be awarded an Undesirable Discharge. The “character of service” for this type of discharge is “under conditions other than honorable”. The General with jurisdiction has approved the board’s recommendation.

    I’m not “entirely convinced” that a UD was appropriate. This discharge is usually used when the Service and the Service Member mutually agree to a discharge to allow the service member to escape a Courts Martial or if the Service Member has been convicted of a serious crime in the civilian world. Stein’s circumstances clearly are different from a typical recipient of a UD.

    It is clear that it was time for Stein and the USMC to go their separate ways. Stein, apparently has “forgoten” that serving our country in the Armed Forces is not a “right” but a privilege.

    Stein may or may not be able to receive VA benefits. The VA, as I understand it, reviews each applicant individually and makes a determination.

    1. Wow, Eric. You put a lot of thought into this post and really gave everyone something to think about there. Thanks for reading and thanks for the comment.

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