Another Sergeant Major has a quiet exit from command for alleged inappropriate behavior

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Sergeant Major

The Marine Corps as an institution cares only about the image of the institution. “Soft firing” allows for quiet retirements, and is a common practice among the USMC institutional elite

The prior Sergeant Major (SgtMaj) of School of Infantry West (SOI-W) , Steven Burkett, quietly disappeared from the command page on Marines.mil, which is the official website for the USMC. The bio for the new SgtMaj states that he took command in March of 2022. This implies that Burkett was never the Sergeant Major of SOI-W. The new SgtMaj is “dual hatting”, and is listed simultaneously as the Headquarters & Service Battalion SgtMaj, as well as the SOI-W SgtMaj.

If Burkett was never the SgtMaj, it is interesting that we find many articles and images indicating that he was very recently the Sergeant Major of the O6 level command.

Command Photo from Marines.mil as of June 2023

Command Photo from Marines.mil as of June 2023

https://www.trngcmd.marines.mil/Photos/igphoto/2003223864/

This Marine Corps Times article references him as the SgtMaj of SOI-W as of May.

Background

The Real MC Gazette ran an article in which screenshots of conversations from an instagram page he allegedly runs known as “Sergeant Major Kettlebell” conversed inappropriately with a known poolee. Shortly after, images surfaced on the Marine Corps SNCO’s page on Facebook alleging that he sent inappropriate intimate photos of himself to the poolee, which I will not share here. Additionally, he seemingly admitted to the conversation in the group from his Facebook profile before the inappropriate photos were posted to the group.

Thoughts

The focus here is not so much on this particular person. This is just one of the many examples of the Corps wide gas-lighting that is soft firing. The average Marine knows about incidents such as these, and when they are not publicly acknowledged, it is a form of moral injury to Marines who are doing the right thing every single day. Paradoxically, this behavior by the institutional elite perpetuates the lack of good order and discipline they are trying to instill. Why would junior Marines do the right thing when they know for a fact that their leaders are getting off easy when they screw up?

These people are supposedly selected among the best, held to the highest standards, and are trusted advisors to commanders. I do not understand how being a narcissistic social media influencer is congruent with the maturity required to lead and influence Marines. I do not understand how trusted advisors, commanders, and the institution who preach about accountability can so publicly become quiet as a mouse when they screw up. Acknowledgement at the command level would be a huge start.

Maybe he is under investigation, maybe he is being reprimanded or punished. Maybe they quietly relieved him of his duties, and are letting him workout eight hours per day until he retires. Who knows? I do know that it would be a great service to the withering institutional trust for leaders to own up to their mistakes.