State of the NCO Corps December 2012
Please join me in the booth in the back in the corner in the dark of my local NCO club, where the latest sign over the bar reads “Land of Cotton” (because old times here are not only not forgotten, they are generally discussed at great length) and the bartender occasionally has to remind someone that it’s “Service before Self” and NOT “Serve Yourself” .
Since this is the “State of the NCO Corps”, let’s take a moment to discuss that as 2012 winds down. I have been continuing to track a sample representing approximately 40 percent of the SFMC, and that sample still supports an estimate of about one Marine in four holding an enlisted rank. These Marines serve in billets at all levels of the Corps, from their local units to their BN or BDE all the way up to the General Staff, and not always in exclusively enlisted positions like NCOIC. They range in age from elementary school aged cadets to septuagenarians, and include those who have served as NCOs in their real world armed forces, and those who have simply and whole heartedly embraced the traditions of NCOs stretching back to the centurions of Rome. But, across the board they tend to exhibit the enthusiasm, pride, and professionalism expected of an SFMC NCO. For the most part, they have chosen to remain in the enlisted ranks in an organization where being an officer is the more common path, sometimes politely but firmly refusing promotion out of the ranks because that choice is important to them on a personal level.
Their motto is “Service before Self”, and many take that to mean that getting the job before them done is more important than whatever personal recognition they may receive. But, thanks to the efforts of many fine officers in the Corps, that recognition comes whether they were looking for it or not. This past year has seen enlisted Marines receive awards for service ranging from the Leaders Commendation all the way up to the SFMC Distinguished Service Cross.
Get the picture? Enlisted Marines are still, and most probably always be a minority in the SFMC, but they are active and thriving, and I take great pride in representing them at the GS level.
Another duty assigned me is promoting community service activities throughout the Corps. But, since the SFMC is a part of STARFLEET, let me direct your attention to the Fleet Admiral’s Challenge. You can read all about it at the CQ Online using the link below:
To sum up, Fleet Admiral Dave Blaser would like to ask that all chapters start a food drive collecting non-perishable food items for donation to your local food bank. Keep a tally of how much food you’ve collected in pounds and send that periodically to the Annual Campaign Director, Brian Schreur, at campaign at sfi.org. Brian will track the information, and the three chapters who donated the largest and send them an award certificate. The program will be accepting donation counts through to January 31, 2013.
As I’m fond of reminding you- no matter how small your local community is, if you look around you’ll probably find a way to put in a couple of hours or so every once in a while giving someone who needs it a hand, and from where I sit, that’s the essence of community service.
Speaking of recognition for community service, I would like to give a BIG tip of Top’s eight point to CDT SGT Benjamin Mabbit of the 380th MSG. On November 30, CDT SGT Mabbit participated with his martial arts school in a demonstration of karate forms that raised a combined total of over £1200 (over 1900 US dollars) for the “Big C” cancer charity. I am pleased to note that CDT SGT Mabbit took something he did for fun, and used it to benefit a good cause, and that my official response when I learned of this was “ OUT-Freaking-STANDING!”
Please remember that the SFMC General Staff needs your input and ideas in order to properly do our jobs. Don’t hesitate to contact the appropriate GS member with your questions, comments and ideas. You can find all the email addresses at the SFMC website, and, of course, we monitor the Corps-l list, and the SFMC Facebook group.
Now it’s time for Top’s History Lesson. In 1919, a unit of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti (the government forces fighting against the Caco rebellion) welcomed their new commander – a USMC corporal brevetted to Lieutenant in their forces. Unlike the earlier USMC campaign in Haiti, where Marines fought in their own units, during what has become known as the Second Haiti Campaign, they were posted in command positions over the Gendarmerie, and this wasn’t the only enlisted Marine serving in an officer’s role. But, this particular Marine was a pretty good fit for his billet.
Born in Virginia in 1898, he grew up listening to stories from Civil War veterans, and, since he idolized “Stonewall” Jackson, he was probably very pleased when he was accepted to Jackson’s old school, the Virginia Military Institute. A voracious reader and student of history, he would have likely done very well at VMI, but, we’ll never know. Declaring that he wanted to “go where the guns are”, and inspired by the actions of the Marines at Belleau Wood, he dropped out of school after his first year, and joined the USMC as a private. He didn’t get to see any action in World War I, but he did rapidly make it through NCO school, and then OCS, and was commissioned a 2LT in June of 1919, He had been an officer all of ten days when a reduction in forces forced a decision. He could be an inactive reserve officer, or he could stay on active duty as an enlisted Marine. For him, the choice was obvious, and it was as a corporal that he was soon shipped to Haiti.
He served there for nearly five years, seeing a fair amount of fighting (over 40 engagements against Caco forces) as he rose through the ranks and gained the experience in jungle fighting and small unit tactics that would serve him and the USMC so very well in the future. Although a fine NCO, shortly after his return to the States in 1924, he finally rejoined the officers’ ranks, but his time as an enlisted Marine would always be with him, and in later years, he would be known for his understanding and concern for the enlisted ranks. In fact, there probably isn’t a member of the USMC that hasn’t mentioned him a time or two even today.
So who was this “reverse mustang” who wanted to be an active Marine so badly he became an NCO and worked his way back up? Well, would it help if I told you that one person who met him described him as having “a back straight as a board and a torso built like a barrel“, and that physique led to a nickname that stayed with him all his life?
To the USMC in 1924 he was officially Service Number 03158, but he will be forever be known with respect and even affection by Marines by that nickname: “Chesty”.
Lewis Burwell Puller became one of the most famous US Marines in history, rising to the rank of LT General. His personal courage earned him a staggering FIVE Navy Crosses, an Army Distinguished Service Cross, and a Silver Star, and his tough, aggressive leadership served the Marines well during both World War Two and the Korean War. It’s hard to find a collection of Marine anecdotes or quotes that doesn’t include a few “Chesty” stories,
He is deservedly a legend and an icon to Marines, but remember- at one time – he was just a Marine NCO doing a thankless, dirty job that had to be done because that was where the guns were and that’s where he wanted to be.
MGSGT Jerome A. “ Gunny Hawk” Stoddard
Sergeant Major of the Starfleet Marines