Just before Irma struck Marathon, Mike Rhine, a Sergeant Major with the United States Marine Corps Reserve, had just returned from his deployment to Texas with his Marines Charlie Company 4th Amphibious Assault Battalion out of Galveston, Texas, along with the unit’s amazing 30-ton Amphibian Assault Vehicles. (Those were the guys going house to house with Amphibian Assault Vehicles in 15 plus foot of water to rescue those stranded in the Harvey flood.) Rhine immediately returned to Marathon and had just enough time to button up he and his wife’s own home and follow evacuation orders like the good Marine he is. He reported to duty as soon as possible after the storm — again, like a good Marine.
This soft-spoken man, who identifies as a Texan, has made Marathon his second home for six years. Only his piercing blue eyes give any hint to this man’s character, achievements and rank. The 4th Amphibian Assault Battalion is headquartered in Tampa, and represents 40 percent of the Marine Corps Amphibian Assault capabilities with Companies in Virginia Beach, Virginia; Jacksonville, Florida; Galveston, Texas; and two in Tampa. There are roughly 1,200 men in his command with platoons of AAVs being deployed year round to different corners of the globe.
His personal decorations include two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, Army Commendation Medal, Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and two Combat Action Ribbons. He said he will retire in one year, to have 30 years in the service. When he does, he will become even more of an asset to the Marathon community.
When recovery efforts for Hurricane Irma were in full swing, he was the shadow in the room, the one that figuratively took a step back to “connect the dots and vet the possibilities.” He said, “The only way we can survive down here is by helping each other. The Keys is a special place both for its beauty and the people that live here.”
Nickname: They call me Sergeant Major; it’s just easier.
Why the Keys? My wife, Patti, loves the water, she and I just fell in love with Marathon and the people. I’ve always been a cowboy — hat, Wrangler jeans, everything. Now I wear shorts and flip-flops. But the change has been good.
What was it like in Marathon after Hurricane Irma passed? It was like a war zone. Stuff everywhere. Devastation. (Editor’s note: Coming from a man who served in Iraq from 2004 to 2006, that’s quite a statement. In Iraq, then ranked as a deployment chief, Rhine was in charge of six Marine TPQ36 Artillery Fire Finders, one Army TPQ36, and five Light Weight Counter Mortar Radars (LCMR) in 18 different bases, FOBs (forward operation basis) and roof top locations through out the country.)
In your opinion, what does Marathon need to do post-Irma? Well, right after the storm, we looked to see where everybody was. No we need to look ahead for what’s next. Not just tomorrow, but weeks and months ahead. It will never be a rose garden, but if we plant our blocks in a line we won’t have a roadblock.
You are a member of Marathon Devil Dogs Detachment 1216. What is that? It is the only Marine Corps League Detachment in the Florida Keys. The League is America’s oldest U.S. Marine Corps veterans’ organization chartered by Congress. It has 49 Departments throughout the 50 United States. In Florida, there are 51 detachments with more than 4,000 members, who are led by Commandant George LaMont. He came down to the Keys to inspect the situation. And that was mighty fine.
What will you do when you retire? Sail to the next unknown adventure. I want to blend in and just be incognito. But I will miss the Marine Corps.
What kind of sailing do you like to do? I like the long trips more than I do short ones. I need to learn the sextant and then I will have majority of the skills necessary of a good sailor.
Finish these sentences …
A Marine is … someone who runs towards the loud sounds, the flames, and the chaos, so others do not have to.
The last book I read or movie I enjoyed was … “Hacksaw Ridge.”