QUANTICO, Va. – Despite a relatively high turnout and a large amount of publicity, Marine officials announced that this year’s first Marine Corps Spelling Bee — an offshoot of the more famous Marine Corps Marathon — will also be its last.
The winner, Sgt. Maj. Pedro Severo from the 4th Marine Division’s command element, emerged victorious from three days of elimination rounds after properly spelling the word “gun.” He defeated Major Jake Andrejcik from Marine Corps Embassy Security Group, who became confused over what he was trying to spell while using the NATO phonetic alphabet.
Sgt. Maj. Severo's prize will be a free write-in-the-rain pad and his name on the Marine Corps Spelling Bee trophy, which unfortunately misspelled it as "Seevero."
The idea for a Marine Corps-wide spelling bee was originally the brainchild of Col. Maurice "Dan" Marino, assigned to the Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, Va, and featured words which Marino said were taken straight from the Marine Corps Institute's popular "Spelling 4 Marines" course.
Marino said his main goal was to break the dumb-as-rocks stereotype that Marines have traditionally faced, and thought a spelling bee would be perfect.
"Spelling bees are basically memory exercises," Marino explained on the last day of the tournament. "We're all familiar with Kim's Games, used by our Recon and Sniper Marines, and this is basically the same thing. I thought it would be a great chance to get the Corps some publicity in an area that doesn't involve physical activity, and show people that we have strong minds in addition to healthy bodies."
He then watched Staff Sgt. Alex Drost, an avid runner and weight-lifter who has competed in several amateur mixed-martial arts tournaments, struggling on-stage to spell the word "radio."
While Headquarters Marine Corps initially joked that all the spelling bee would prove is that Marines can't spell "defeat," they grew more alarmed when it also proved that Marines can't spell "Marines." After several days they ordered the contest prematurely shut down.
Col. Marino said that in hindsight he shouldn't have been surprised by the problems encountered by enlisted Marines, including the sergeant who attempted to spell "Army" as "Arfmy", based on the mnemonic: "Ain't Ready for Marines Yet"; the officers were another story.
"You figure lieutenants would know how to spell their own rank," he complained, "but apparently we don't teach that at Officer Candidate School anymore. One of them actually tried spelling it '2-L-T.' When we said no, she got angry and said we hadn't specified whether it was a first or a second lieutenant."
Col. Marino was last heard speaking over the phone with commandant Gen. James Amos, who asked him to spell the word "fired."