A former military public affairs officer said she was trying to "inform and entertain" readers when she described Rim of the Pacific naval exercises as "snoozepac" and the "world’s largest floating cocktail party" in a separate blog.
Instead, it got her fired from the public affairs job, she and Navy officials confirm.
The controversial comments and the two roles Gina DiNicolo said she was trying to keep separate garnered attention by the Navy and Marine Corps Times, journalism website Poynter Online and politics website Politico.
DiNicolo was a contracted public affairs representative for the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory and was in Hawaii for the big maritime exercise.
The 1984 U.S. Naval Academy graduate and former Marine captain also is a blogger who writes "Inside the Headquarters" for the Military Officers Association of America website.
On July 8 , DiNicolo wrote on her blog that despite its size, locale and agenda, "these (RIMPAC) 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," DiNicolo wrote. "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)."
DiNicolo insists the "cocktail party" reference was to social gatherings and not drinking, but RIMPAC officials found themselves explaining in-port social events aboard participating nation’s ships that did involve alcohol, including "Singapore Slings" being served up by that nation’s navy.
"I wasn’t there every minute of every hour of every day for every event, but they are excellent opportunities for international participants to get together in a relaxed atmosphere and talk," said Navy Cmdr. Greg Hicks, the chief public affairs officer for RIMPAC.
DiNicolo’s blog, which was separate from her RIMPAC duties, ran on a Thursday, and on Monday she was fired as a public affairs officer, she said.
"They were positive, they were very nice and said, you know, they disagreed with the piece, and said, ‘Despite all your work for us … your services are no longer needed,’" she said by phone from Virginia.
DiNicolo was on a plane leaving Hawaii within six hours. She said she had worked as a contracted public affairs officer for the Marine Corps for about six months.
DiNicolo, who received an early retirement from the Marine Corps at the rank of captain, said she tries to "inform and entertain" on her blog, and some pieces can be provocative.
She said she holds no ill will with the firing. "It’s business," she said.
Hicks said he had "trust" issues with DiNicolo.
"Here she was making these comments about RIMPAC (on her blog), and yet her responsibility as a paid position was to precisely promote (RIMPAC events)," Hicks said.
Hicks said he also took issue with DiNicolo because she didn’t reveal on her blog that she was a paid Marine Corps public affairs representative in the piece on RIMPAC.