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Protester: Charges against former Parris Island sergeant major will likely be dropped

Jun. 11, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
In an image taken from video, Ethan Arguello, a former Marine drill instructor, and Sgt. Maj. Paul Archie, the senior-enlisted adviser at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, get in a verbal argument.
In an image taken from video, Ethan Arguello, a former Marine drill instructor, and Sgt. Maj. Paul Archie, the senior-enlisted adviser at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, get in a verbal argument. (YouTube video)
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Former Marine drill instructor Ethan Arguello is sorry about a confrontation that took place June 5 during a protest outside the gates of a South Carolina Marine base, but not about the outcome for Sgt. Maj. Paul Archie.

Archie, the former senior enlisted adviser at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, was forced to resign following a verbal argument with Arguello that resulted in a stolen hat and third-degree assault and battery charges.

“I have not decided to go through with the charges, and uh, more than likely they’ll be dropped,” Arguello told the Marine Corps Times Wednesday.

Arguello, who spent a few days outside the base protesting the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner exchange with the Taliban, had opted to wear his “campaign cover” — a distinct hat worn by Marine DIs — despite a prior phone call from Archie urging him not to continue wearing the hat.

Arguello alleges the phone conversation was cordial and ended on the note that, regardless of the outcome, perhaps both would meet up for a beer some time and talk it over. The next day, Archie saw Arguello wearing the hat, pulled over and got out to verbally confront Arguello. Smartphone video of that confrontation circulated widely over social media.

Arguello filed charges, the Port Royal Police Department issued a warrant for Archie’s arrest, the video went viral, and Archie lost his job.

No apologies from Arguello, though.

“I’ve seen many DIs aboard Parris Island have their careers ended over wrongdoing — suffering the consequences of their own actions. They were all top notch Marines, and they didn’t have the option on the table to voluntarily get out and not face the UCMJ and own up to their charges,” Arguello told Marine Corps Times.

He said that the only thing he should be sorry for is that his intended message got “lost in the sauce,” as the Marine saying goes.

“All these people that get bent up sideways about this [campaign] cover and the sergeant major are thinking the wrong way,” said Arguello, who started protesting in other locations, but settled on Parris Island in order to “raise awareness.”

“The most sad part about it is that they’ve detracted from my purpose,” he said.

Arguello, who deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom with 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, said his unit lost seven Marines “fighting terrorists,” and that releasing Taliban fighters in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl — widely believed to be a deserter among the veteran community — was simply too much for him to bear.

“I’ve never protested a day in my life,” said Arguello. “[But] I saw firsthand my brothers get taken away in pursuit of or fighting terrorists, and ultimately, I hold all terrorists accountable for those dead, including those [President Barrack] Obama released.”

Archie is no stranger to fighting terrorists, either. He deployed with 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006 and has been awarded the Bronze Star for heroism in combat.

Erik Villagran, now a Riverside County, California, sheriff’s deputy, was deployed with 2/8 as a lance corporal at that time and remembered then-1st Sgt. Archie as “a motivator.”

When he met Archie the first time, “I tried to shake his hand with my left hand, and he just batted it away and said, ‘shake my hand like a man,’” he told Marine Corps Times, laughing.

“He was a real in-your-face type, if you were old school, you liked him, but if you were one of those sensitive types, you didn’t,” said Villagran.

Archie seemed well-liked for his “old school” nature, Marines have indicated to Marine Corps Times. A former Marine with intimate knowledge of Archie’s untimely resignation said the news rocked the “hat community,” referring to drill instructors around Parris Island, both retired and active.

Archie has since lawyered up and hired a public relations firm founded by a former Marine public affairs officer to help him sort out the mess. He couldn’t be reached for direct comment, due to the charges still being under investigation.

For what it’s worth, Arguello said he doesn’t buy the whole “old school” argument, which he says many Marines seem intent on pushing on him to justify Archie’s actions.

“When I got in the Marine Corps, there were three ways to solve a problem — blood, sweat and paper,” said Arguello. Blood would be if Archie had sought to “square off” with him in a fight, and Arguello said that wouldn’t happen for obvious, legal reasons.

As for sweat, “I don’t see Archie coming out here and doing burpies for me either,” said Arguello, referring to an exercise once used as punishment for Marines. “They call that hazing now, anyway,” he said.

Arguello said his only possible response was to turn to “the paper,” meaning to file charges, though he said he was likely to drop the charges.

Archie’s public relations firm released a statement that “contradicts a statement the Marine Corps released,” writes Dan Lamothe of The Washington Post.

The Marine Corps’ official statement was “understanding the Marine Corps has very high standards of personal and professional conduct for its most senior leaders, Sgt. Maj. Archie voluntarily stepped down as the depot sergeant major, and the commanding general regrettably accepted his retirement.”

The news release, produced by Triumph Business Communications of Tampa, Florida, stated: “Widespread coverage of the incident and reaction on social media prompted the commanding general at Parris Island and top leadership at Headquarters Marine Corps to act quickly. They moved to relieve Archie or demand his retirement.”

Officials at the base told Marine Corps Times when news broke of the confrontation that the Marines would not be conducting an investigation into Archie’s actions.

Common practice in the Marine Corps when senior-level leaders become entangled in high-visibility criminal charges in civilian courts is to demand a resignation. A “relief” of a Marine’s post would be tantamount to an investigation, which the Marine Corps reports it will not conduct.

Arguello asserts that a Marine of lesser rank would have been subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and that Archie got off easy.

Nonetheless, following a few phone calls from close friends, asking him “in a tactful way” not to wear his campaign cover during protest, Arguello has decided to leave the hat at home.

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