State of the NCO Corps August 2012
State of the NCO Corps August 10, 2012
As usual, I am coming to you from in the booth in the back in the corner in the dark of my local NCO club, where the annual IC Pity Party featured no unfortunate incidents thanks largely due to the success of the Temporary Prigal Containment System (consisting mainly of a portable lavatory, a transporter inhibitor, several hundred meters of cargo tape, and SGT Bear, my dog, sitting right outside the door daring Prigal to come out) and the latest sign above the bar reads “Phaser beams travel at light speed. Unless your sorry tail can go FTL, pay your tab on time.”
Now, let’s take a look at some of the NCO/enlisted news from IC/IM, with special attention to the Star of Honor and Cadet Star of Honor winners. It’s time to learn a little more than Name, Rank, and SCC Number about these two.
The Star of Honor for this year went to SSGT Frank “Uncle Grumpy” Stevens In late 2010, an infection forced an emergency amputation of the lower part of his left leg, and given his age and generally frail health, the outlook seemed bleak- to everybody but SSGT Stevens. In 2011, he put in three to ten hours every month on various community service projects despite his new “tin leg”, spearheaded gatherings and fun activities for his local detachment of the SFMC, and drove 12 hours each way to attend his regional summit. He constantly leads by example, and has one simple standard: The best is good enough. He also tries to fly under the radar, preferring that credit go to others- which made his reaction to being informed of his winning the Star of Honor typical of him: “They did WHAT to me?” (There was more, but that’s all I can print)
The winner of the Cadet Star of Honor is, by coincidence, another SSGT, in this case CDT SSGT Samantha “Sam” Tolleson. By another coincidence, she also spent part of the year in the hospital, and did not let that slow her down. She takes a strong leadership role among the cadets of her chapter, and often works the recruiting table at events. She has begun taking cadet courses through SFA and the SFMCA, and done well – not surprising since she is also an above average student at school. Dedication and hard work are everyday words to CDT SSGT Tolleson and the members of her MSG and chapter are proud of her efforts. She also recently received her first challenge coin, and in the sprit of NCOs throughout the Corps is looking to try it out. No need for a coin here, Sam- if ever we meet, the first diet root beer is on me.
As I watched the feed from IC, I noted with pride that the nominations for STARFLEET Enlisted Member of the Year included the names of a lot of the members of the Corps I have come to know during my time as SGM/SFMC, including the eventual winner: SSGT Frank Stevens, whose cover has officially been permanently and completely blown now.
Another one of those names was that of 1SGT Philip Muller, who this year at IC ran a panel on enlisted members in STARFLEET. Initial reports are that it went well, and I would like to thank 1SGT Muller again for making it happen. I encourage you all to consider a similar panel at your regional summits/musters. 1SGT Muller has made his notes for the panel available on the SFMC Facebook group, and I am sure he would be willing to lend you the benefit of his experience.
Continuing on with awards, MGSGT John “Kiwi” Kane received an SFMC Service Commendation, SGM Mark “Gambit” Polanis can add a black double knot to his shoulder cord as one of the newest members of Team Delta, and MGSGT James “Fireball” Maarsingh added an SFMC Achievement Award to his honors The list of those receiving the Commandant’s Campaign Ribbon for their work with Toys for Tots and/or Special Olympics is a long one, and rather than thank each of them individually for their efforts, I will issue a general Bravo Zulu to them all at this time, and ask that everyone take time to congratulate those in your area.
Finally, a bit of a milestone: for the first time since its inception, the SFMC Distinguished Service Cross was awarded to an enlisted Marine. This Marine wishes it known that his long service to the Corps would not have been possible without the support, encouragement, and example set by his fellow NCOs, and the opportunities given him by many fine officers to excel.
Every month I take the time to remind you that community service is something the SFMC encourages (and rewards), but I also want to remind you that the biggest encouragement and reward one can get from community service is the simple knowledge that you have made a difference for someone, however small. With that in mind, please remember that almost everyone can do a simple act of community service by looking out for your friends and neighbors in times of severe weather or natural disaster. Charity, as they say, begins at home.
In that spirit, I would like to congratulate the winner of this year’s Shield of Honor, GEN Wade Hoover, whose outstanding and steadfast efforts to assist the residents of a small town recover from a tornado even after media attention turned elsewhere were just part of a year of exemplary community service efforts on his part. Well done, sir!
In a final note from IC, I had a list of my goals for the upcoming year presented. Since those will be published separately, let me just say that in addition to those goals, I have some projects in the works that concern enlisted members of STARFLEET in general and the SFMC in particular. I will certainly keep you posted on those projects as they develop through all the usual channels.
As always, remember that the SFMC General Staff is here to serve you. The email addresses are ALL on the SFMC web page, and their doors are always open. Your questions and input are always welcome and needed. And, remember that some of us tend to read and follow the SFMC group on Facebook, so feel free to comment and share with your fellow Marines there.
Now, it’s time for Top’s History Lesson. One of the marks of a good NCO is the ability to think quickly in a time of crisis. Another is personal courage. In February of 2008, LCPL Matthew Croucher of the Royal Marines Reserve demonstrated both to an incredible degree.
Croucher had already served three tours in Iraq, and had distinguished himself during his tour in Afghanistan by tending to a severely wounded comrade while under heavy fire until the medics could arrive. On February 9, 2008, he was part of a four man patrol cautiously investigating a compound suspected of being a production center for IEDs when things went bad in a hurry.
They had done a 30 minute sweep in the dark with no sign of the enemy, and were in the process of extracting to rejoin the rest of their unit nearby when Croucher felt pressure against his legs. In the low light, he had missed a tripwire, and an armed grenade landed right next to him. In that instant, he knew he had just accidentally put all four men in deadly danger.
He shouted “Grenade!” followed immediately by “Tripwire!” so the other three Marines would know what they were dealing with, and then had a split second to make a decision. If he tried to run, odds were he would still catch part of the blast, and at least one of his fellow Marines had no chance at all of avoiding any part of it, So, Croucher did the only thing he could think of- he fell backwards on the grenade, pinning it underneath his pack, and pulled his legs up out of the way. He had to trust his training and his body armor that there was a slim chance that he would survive. He didn’t have much hope for himself but at least it gave the other three better odds.
When the grenade went off, the rest suffered only a few cuts and bruises, and to their amazement, Croucher was still alive. His backpack and body armor had absorbed most of the blast, and incredibly his own injuries were minor enough that he refused evacuation so he could join the reception party for the enemy that came to see what their booby trap had caught.
Croucher was nominated for the Victoria Cross, but the VC specifies that is for actions in the face of the enemy, and technically speaking, there was no enemy present at the time. But, there was a ready alternative: the George Cross, whose requirements are the same as the better known Victoria Cross, except that no direct presence of the enemy is necessary. There was some grumbling from the public about that, but rules are rules, and there was certainly no grumbling from Croucher, who had expected to lose a limb at best when he made the decision to put his body on the line to protect his comrades. He said “I thought, ‘I’ve set this bloody thing off and I’m going to do whatever it takes to protect the others,'”
In a place of honor next to his George Cross is the backpack Croucher kept as a trophy of the day he “beat the grim reaper”. He told one reporter “When I see it I’m constantly reminded how lucky I am,” I suspect that at least three other Royal Marines consider themselves lucky that the person who triggered that trap was also quick thinking enough, brave enough, and willing to risk it all rather than let his comrades suffer from what he felt was his mistake.
For those who would like a compilation of all the History Lesson segments to date, feel free to email me, and let me know whether you would prefer a Word document or a pdf file.
MGSGT Jerome A. “Hawk” Stoddard
Sergeant Major of the Starfleet Marines
sgm_sfmc at sfi-sfmc.org