Gov. DeSantis names decorated Marine Col. Mark Thieme as new Florida State Guard Director

He’s the third person to take the job in less than a year and a half.

The recently resurrected Florida State Guard has a new Director.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that United States Marine Corps veteran Mark Thieme will lead the State Guard.

He’s the third person to hold the position in less than a year and a half, following retired Marine Lt. Col. Chris Graham, who died by suicide last October, and U.S. Navy Reserve Capt. Luis Soler, who quit earlier this year for “personal reasons.”

Thieme brings significant experience to the job. He enlisted in 1987 and was commissioned in 1994. Over his 35-year career with the Corps, he supported operations including Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, Inherent Freedom, Odyssey Dawn and Unified Protector, according to a news release from the Governor’s Office.

His decorations include the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Combat Action Ribbon and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of South Carolina and a master’s degree in business administration from Tulane University.

Retired U.S. Marine Col. Mark Thieme’s accomplishments include “launching and standing up a new civil military organization, which was fully operational more than two years ahead of schedule,” a news release from the Governor’s office said. Image via LinkedIn.

Between June 2019 and May 2023, Thieme worked as a senior operations officer with the Corps. For a decade between 2003 and 2013, he owned and operated martial arts schools in Louisiana, North Carolina and Virginia, according to his LinkedIn page, which lists him as residing in Greater Tampa Bay.

Since 2020, he’s been an Advisory Board member of CarePossible, a nonprofit focused on helping veterans, military families and low-income families receive mental health and addiction care.

Revived last year after 75 years of dormancy, the State Guard graduated its first class of 100 troops in July.

But as an investigation by the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times revealed in August, the organization — which is to operate in addition to the existing state National Guard — has had ample problems.

Many enlistees, including several veterans, complained they were told their voluntary service would be for non-military missions assisting Floridians in times of need and disaster. That was its originally stated purpose.

But that changed over time. In a statement to the Herald and Times, Maj. Gen. John Haas, the adjutant general overseeing the Florida National Guard, described the State Guard as a “military organization” to be used during emergencies and in “aiding law enforcement with riots and illegal immigration.”

Enlistees said they were being trained for combat and put through rigors associated with military boot camp and that the National Guard members training them were inexperienced.

Several enlistees have since quit.

Of note: Unlike the National Guard, which can be deployed by the federal government, the State Guard answers only to the Governor.

DeSantis said last year that it was necessary to bring back the State Guard because “bureaucrats in D.C. (had) refused to increase the number of guardsmen despite our increasing population.”

As of last year, the Florida National guard ranked 53rd of 54 states and territories in National Guard personnel per capita.

Florida has had 12,000 National Guard troops stationed since 1958. Since then, the population has ballooned from 5 million to 22 million.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


  • Michael K

    October 27, 2023 at 11:30 pm

    Sounds like DeSantis really wants a police state.

  • Kathryn G

    October 28, 2023 at 9:52 am

    So agree with Michael K and his policies in so many areas smack of authoritarianism and fascism.

  • rick whitaker

    October 28, 2023 at 1:37 pm

    is there ANYTHING in florida that florida is not near the bottom on compared to normal states. desantis has made things much worse in his tenure as governor. are haters and weirdos like earl pitts his only backers? i moved out of florida long ago. boy did i do the right thing. when the ocean level keeps rising, floridians will want to sell their houses and move, but there will be no buyers. get out now while you still can.

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