Marine sergeant major loses job after altercation depicted in viral video

A video of this confrontation outside the Marine Corps recruit depot at Parris Island, S.C., went viral and led to a sergeant major's resignation. (YouTube screen grab)
A video of this confrontation outside the Marine Corps recruit depot at Parris Island, S.C., went viral and led to a sergeant major’s resignation. (YouTube screen grab)

The debate over whether the United States should have exchanged five Taliban officials for the only U.S. soldier held in captivity by the insurgent group has devolved into this: A senior enlisted Marine just lost his job after an altercation between him and a Marine veteran was depicted in a viral video.

The scene was captured in a brief clip that has received tens of thousands of views in the last few days. It depicts Sgt. Maj. Paul Archie, a 26-year Marine who earned the Bronze Star with V for heroism in Iraq, and Marine veteran Ethan Arguello screaming at each other outside Parris Island, S.C., home of one of the Marine Corps’ two recruit training facilities. The base is one of the military’s most famous installations, in part because it is the setting of “Full Metal Jacket,” Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 film.

Here’s the video in question:

As you can see, the altercation escalated quickly. It ends with Archie getting in the face of Arguello, and then snatching his “campaign cover” — the hat commonly worn by drill instructors working at Parris Island — and driving away in his black Jeep Sahara. The men bark at each other throughout.

The argument is centered on whether Arguello, said to be a former drill instructor, should have worn a campaign cover as part of his protest against the Obama administration’s decision to swap Taliban officials for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. The deal has infuriated many service members and veterans, who believe that there is sufficient evidence available to declare Bergdahl a deserter. Senior Pentagon officials have said that Bergdahl is receiving medical treatment, and that they will investigate the circumstances of him disappearing from his base in Afghanistan in 2009 at a later date.

Arguello appeared outside the recruit depot at Parris Island last week, wearing a T-shirt and his campaign cover while carrying a flag and a sign protesting the Bergdahl swap. His point is blunt: “My Marine brothers, 5 killers were traded for a deserter.” He carried a United States flag along with the sign.

Marine Corps uniform regulations state that the campaign cover is only to be worn for official business. It lists specific reasons, work at the recruit depots the most prominent. Arguello is no longer in the Marine Corps, but his protest would violate the spirit of that in some Marines’ eyes.

Archie clearly takes exception to Arguello’s choice of headwear in the video. And it appears Arugello knows a butt-chewing is coming.

“Don’t get loud at me!” Arguello appears to say. “I’m not a Marine anymore, and there ain’t nothin’ you can do about it!”

The sergeant major then gets up in Arguello’s face, knocking the hat off his head in the process. Archie then takes it with him, turning back to his Jeep.

“You’re about to get locked up!” Arguello responds.

Archie drove away with the campaign cover, but the story doesn’t end there. On Friday, Archie was charged with assault by Port Royal Police in South Carolina. Police noted that Archie’s head struck the brim of Arguello’s hat, Stars and Stripes reported.

On Monday night, the Marine Corps Times reported that Archie had resigned from his position as the top enlisted Marine at Parris Island. I reached out to Archie shortly afterward. He declined to comment, but a public relations firm working on his behalf responded Tuesday with a news release saying the sergeant major has retained a local law firm to represent him.

“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,” says the news release, produced by Triumph Business Communications of Tampa, Fla. “They moved to relieve Archie or demand his retirement.”

Archie recently buried his father, and also was dealing with the loss of a drill instructor who was found dead June 4 at Parris Island, the news release adds. The public relations firm that produced it was founded by a former Marine public affairs officer.

The news release contradicts a statement the Marine Corps released to the Marine Corps Times on Monday night. It states that “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.”

Arguello did not respond to a request for comment. He has protested the Bergdahl swap in numerous locations since it occurred, according to local news reports. He told NewsWest 9 of Texas, where he grew up, that he lost seven members of his platoon while deployed to Iraq, and holds al-Qaeda personally responsible.

Dan Lamothe covers national security for The Washington Post and anchors its military blog, Checkpoint.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read World
Next Story
Dan Lamothe · June 10