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Our History

On November 10, 1975, five Marines met at the old Club II restaurant on Capitol for a luncheon to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the United States Marine Corps. The five charter members were: Retired Colonel George (Dode) Dodenhoff, then executive Director, Marine Corps Reserve Officers Association; Active duty Lieutenant Colonel Al Barry, Marine Corps Liaison Officer, U. S. Senate; Reserve Major Paul Skrabut, Senate Staff; Retired Sergeant Major E. L. (Cass) Cassell, an associate of the Armed Forces Benefit Association and Retired Sergeant Major C. A. (Mack) McKinney, Executive Director, Washington Office, Non-Commissioned Officers Association.

The five had such a good time others were asked to attend the 201st Anniversary of the Corps. About 15 attended, including, LtCol Buzz Hefti, Marine Liaison to the House of Representatives, Jim Webb, Herb Harmon, Jim Fowler, Don Skinder and John Fales. In 1977 nearly 30 joined the festivities. Then in 1978, the Gang moved from Club II across the street to the Monocle with Representative Bob Wilson, California, as guest of honor and the first Marine Member of Congress to attend a luncheon.

Two years later, following the chartering of the Capitol Hill Detachment of the Marine Corps League (later changed to Capital Marines), McKinney was asked to host the luncheons under its banner. The Rayburn and Cannon House Buildings were used to conduct a number of the luncheons over the following years. As many as 250 Marines and wanna-be-Marines attended. Guests of Honor included Marine Congressman Jack Murtha, Marine Congressman David O. B. Martin, other Members of Congress and Commandants of the Marine Corps. The last of these luncheons was conducted during General Al Gray's tour as Commandant.

Downsizing at the request of the membership, The Gang moved to the National Democratic Club (NDC), where the first luncheon drew 30 Marines and wanna-be-Marines, hence the name, the Gang of 30.

The luncheons continued at the NDC with the exception of two years when it was held downtown one year at Gary's and another year at the Army Navy Club. Both experiences led the Gang to continue its "marriage" with the NDC which provided plenty of space, good food, spirits and excellent service. Each year the guest of honor would be a Marine general officer, often the Commandant or Assistant Commandant, and often the Legislative Assistant to the Commandant.

In May of 2002, the 32nd Commandant, General Jim Jones, a long time standing member of the Gang because of his previous service as Marine Senate Liaison Officer in the early 1980's, offered the use of the Washington, DC Marine Barracks. Sousa Hall became the new home and a very successful Birthday celebration was held in November 2002.

All five original founding members continued to be active in the Gang until the death of SgtMaj Mack McKinney and SgtMaj Cass Cassell in 2006 and Al Barry in 2007. Until then, the Chain of Command was "Dode" as the CO; Al Barry the XO; Paul Skrabut as OpsO; "Cass" as the Sgt. Maj and "Mack" the OpsChief.

The Gang has met every year since 1975, although in 2005 an abbreviated luncheon was held in conjunction with Operation Odyssey, another Marine Birthday luncheon group, because of the ill health of Mack.

Throughout its history, the staffs of the Marine Corps Liaison Offices on Capitol Hill have held a special place in the membership of the Gang. This goes back to its founding roots on Capitol Hill with Al Barry, then Buzz Hefti, Jim Jones and numerous others who followed. Each year the current staffs are guests of the Gang and recognized at the annual luncheon.

The 2006 luncheon was held again at Marine Barracks and the Gang honored the legacy and tenacity of SgtMaj Mack McKinney. By letter, General Jim Jones, Supreme Allied Commander Europe and Commander, U. S. European Command, the first Marine to every hold these positions, recommended that the Gang of 30 change its name to Mack's Marines. The recommendation passed resoundingly.

On 9 Nov 2007 Mack's Marines met at Marine Barracks to celebrate the 232nd Birthday of the Corps. The membership was saddened to learn that charter member Al Barry was critically ill and unable to attend. Al died a month later on 2 December 2007.

By acclamation Mack's Marines will continue to meet each year at the Barracks to honor the long history of our Corps and to recognize the members of the Marine Corps Legislative Affairs team on Capitol Hill. The tradition continues!