Blog wisecracks get public affairs contractor ousted from RIMPAC

A Marine Corps landing craft air-cushioned, or LCAC, enters the well deck of the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard on July 6 during the joint Rim of the Pacific military exercises off the coast of Hawaii. (Lance Cpl. Orlando Perez/Marine Corps)

A landing craft air-cushioned, or LCAC, enters the well deck of the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard on July 6 during the joint Rim of the Pacific military exercises off the coast of Hawaii. (Lance Cpl. Orlando Perez/Marine Corps)

Earlier this month, military blogger Gina DiNicolo poked fun at the annual Rim of the Pacific exercise, in which thousands of sailors and Marines participate in 38 days of nation building and joint operations off the coast of Hawaii.

As Military Times colleague Phil Ewing pointed out on ScoopDeck, it was a “broadside,” one in which she mocked RIMPAC as “SNOOZEPAC” and called the action “anything but exciting.”

A key section of her post, up on the Military Officers Association of America blog, Inside the Headquarters:

Despite the size, locale and agenda, these games seem anything but exciting. Take away the French, and really, what’s left? SNOOZEPAC is 38 days of too many visitors gorging themselves on foreign and U.S. naval delicacies. Air assets become personal taxis transporting their fares from vessel to vessel. (Maybe that’s how it got its rep as the world’s largest floating cocktail party.)

Her analysis may or may not have merit, but there’s another key detail: DiNicolo, a medically retired Marine captain, was in Hawaii for RIMPAC. Working for the Marine Corps. As a civilian public affairs representative.


The blog post subsequently got her dumped from her job doing public affairs work for the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, DiNicolo said last week in a phone interview. She returned home to Virginia, and will no longer be at the lab, based at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. She had worked 40 hours per week for them as a contractor.

DiNicolo, a former Marine Corps public affairs officer, said she believes her work for the Corps and MOAA should be considered separately. She did her job for the lab well, and wrote factually accurate, pointed criticism on the blog, outside of her work with the Corps, she said.

“It’s unfortunate. I think we have a difference in philosophy,” she said. “I think you have a good story, you tell the story. And if you have a marginal story, you tell the story and the good points come out.”

The Corps wouldn’t say much about the incident. In a prepared statement, Marine officials released the following statement:

The contractor was hired to provide public affairs support to the Quantico-based Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory and its Enhanced Company Operations Limited Objective 4 experiment conducted during RIMPAC 2010. An employment action sending the individual home was initiated, because of the contractor’s inability to stay on task and resulting conflict of interest.

That’s a bit cryptic, but if “inability to stay on task” means “openly ridiculing the same event for which you’re facilitating media coverage,” I suppose it counts.

Reached for additional comment, DiNicolo says it simply isn’t true that she couldn’t do her job with the Corps. Her e-mailed response, in part:

I left because Third Fleet was uncomfortable with a member of media or blogging community working in with his PAOs. Fair enough. There is your conflict, as they may see it. Though I thought it an ideal opportunity to get into the field and write some stories, it was pretty clear the lab personnel wanted me gone.

… The hard part in their minds, I think, is reconciling my performance as reasonably talented lab PAO 12 hours a day with this blog pariah for Inside the Headquarters by night… As we discussed, I write what I think readers will find interesting. RIMPAC is not interesting in its natural form. At least I don’t find it interesting, and I rarely write straight news in the blog. I think the RIMPAC blog entry was a solid, accurate piece. It informed, entertained, pointed out a possible shortcoming but highlighted RIMPAC’s strengths. Gee, I’d be happy with that coverage.

Call me crazy, but I’m just not seeing that. At this point, there is nearly a decade of examples that illustrate that running your mouth about your employer on a blog can get you fired. Take this 2005 USA Today piece, which covers the termination of employees at Wells Fargo, Google and other corporations. Or this blog post, which covers the 2008 firing of a Washington Post reporter who posted drunk photographs of himself online and called the Post a “dying medium” on the football blog Kissing Suzy Kolber.

There’s even a word for it: “Dooced.”

Yep: DiNicolo just got dooced.

UPDATE, 10:20 A.M.: ScoopDeck ninja Phil Ewing of Navy Times — the journalist who first drew attention to DiNicolo’s post — weighs in on the mini-scandal here.

Journalism blogs Media Matters and Romensko also provide their two cents.


About Author

I'm a senior writer with Marine Corps Times, covering ground warfare, manpower, weapons acquisition and other beats. I embedded in Afghanistan in spring 2010, and plan to return at least once in 2011.


  1. Pingback: The Scoop Deck – ‘SNOOZEPAC’ blow-back

  2. Dan, Dan, Dan,

    Not completely accurate and rather unflattering, but hey, that’s the game, n’est pas?

    Here’s the deal: I wrote a somewhat provocative and accurate blog entry. It was not liked. The Navy did not want a defense writer in with its PAOs. They let me go. It’s how it goes sometimes.

    The marginally accurate retelling (12-hour days?) is more disturbing than any parting ways with the Warfighting Lab.

    I hope this was the (lengnthy) piece you wanted to write. Apparently professional courtesy can be one-sided.

  3. Gina,

    Sorry you don’t like the blog entry. However, this is a blog, a spot in which I’m able to offer my own opinion.

    As for the “marginally accurate” retelling: the line on 12 hour-days comes directly from your own e-mail. That’s why it’s in italics above, blocked as a pull quote. I didn’t pull the number out of the air.

  4. Pingback: Web Feet Integrated Marketing » Blog Archive » PR Consultant Fired By Marine Corps for Mocking Military Event

  5. that’s all you could get from the warfighting lab? dig deeper. what’s the command climate like over there? you military times guys got this nutroll started. man up and get the rest of the story. and tell it! or, are you afraid you’ll lose access? you trash dinicolo. she doesn’t trash the warfighting lab, or the usmc, or even you times guys. uneven way to draw a paycheck, i’d say.

    as for the 12 hour day; well that is half of 24. i believe she simply meant she was splitting her time equally, not slaving away for 12 hours in quantico. i wouldn’t expect a 60 hour work week to be part of her contract.

    the “story” is at the warfighting lab. i bet you can’t get dinicolo to say that though. she’s taking this like a marine.

  6. How can there be any confusion about a contractor who publicly disdains the contracting agency?

    Have folks defending the gal’s conflicting commitments not worked in the civilian world?

    This smacks of the entitled generation, assuming they can do whatever they want in Avatar Land — and making self-righteous exits when challenged to perform like professionals. …

  7. how are we going to explain to our wives, what we are doing out here is really a deployment/TDY with long hours and constant action, if she blogs its the world’s largest cocktail party…..

    marine huh? on or off duty she should be living the Marine motto.

    Semper Fi….Gina DiNicolo Semper Fi

Leave A Reply