State of the NCO Corps September 2013
Once again, I invite you to join me in the booth in the back in the corner in the dark of my local NCO Club, where there will be harsh words when we find out which wise guy from R&D released the genetically engineered flying pink micro-elephants to nest up in the rafters (they apparently view beer as convenient high energy food source – at least they seem to be housebroken), and the latest post on the message board by the front door notes that the entire history of sentient life in the universe is probably summed up by two words: Sierra Hotel.
The SFMC Policy Manual was recently updated (it’s available for download now at the SFMC Library page – that would be a Hint), and for the first time, it includes the requirements for the office of Sergeant Major of the Starfleet Marines.
“The Sergeant Major must be at least 18 years of age, be identified in the STARFLEET database as a Marine (either Active or Reserve), and must hold an enlisted rank, with a senior enlisted rank being preferred. It is also preferred that the Sergeant Major have served at least one full year as an enlisted member of STARFLEET in order to better understand the nature of the decision to remain in the enlisted ranks of the organization. The Sergeant Major must complete the standard introduction to STARFLEET course (OTS), PD-100, PD-201, NCO-100, and NCO-201, with NCO-301 being recommended. (The requirement to complete any required courses may be filled within 60 days of assuming office with the permission of the Commandant).”
One thing I should address is that, despite the name, “Officer’s Training School” is really just an introduction to STARFLEET course. I would personally be happy to see that name changed, but, realistically, it’s not going to happen. In my opinion, taking OTS should in no way be considered a desire to be an “officer”, and I made it very clear to my chapter CO that was the case when I took it. So, I urge you to follow my lead and ignore the fact that it’s called “Officer’s Training School” when it’s required for an SFMC position.
You may also note that, in the future, candidates for the office should probably be “senior enlisted” members – in other words, E-7’s or Warrant Officers. Another item of preference is some experience at being an enlisted member of STARFLEET – in order to effectively represent enlisted members of the SFMC, you should have “walked the walk” for a while.
If you have other questions or comments about these requirements, please feel free to contact me PRIVATELY.
Turning to community service activities, if your unit hasn’t started making plans for the annual Toys for Tots campaign, I’d suggest that you take a look at the calendar, and start roughing out plans now-ish instead of waiting for the last minute. While improvising on the fly is a commendable attribute of NCOs throughout history, flying by the seat of your pants is generally what you do AFTER the wheels come off the Plan.
There’s one bit of community service that all of us can do right about now, and it’s for the community we all are a part of: STARFLEET. Take a moment to mark your election ballot, dig up a stamp, and drop it in the mail.
As a couple of general reminders, community service doesn’t have to be any part of any organized charity effort. Just giving of your time and energy to someone who needs a hand is the spirit of community service. Whatever you do, make sure that whoever is filing the report for your unit knows the details, and sends it up the Chain of Command in their official report so you can be given the recognition your efforts deserve. And, when disaster strikes, be it floods, fires, tornadoes, or any other large scale catastrophe, remember that the best course of action is probably to support the relief effort of your choice. One thing to consider is some sort of fund raiser. They tend to agree that what they need most is money – they have the logistics and support already in place to purchase supplies. So, you can put in the required time and effort by getting creative and finding ways to raise funds.
As always, 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. Looking back over the years, I realized that one group of NCOs I haven’t talked about is the “tread heads”. The Armor branch of the SFMC is one of those where even a hop, skip and jump through the various manuals reveals that it’s full of NCO slots. That’s been the case throughout history, and that gave me a lot of ground to cover. But, I couldn’t find anything more strange and wonderful than the case of an armor sergeant who literally supplied HER own tank.
Thirty eight year old Mariya Oktyabrskaya had been born in a peasant family in 1905, but married a Soviet Army officer in 1925. She took an interest in military matters, trained as an army nurse and learned to operate weapons and vehicles. When the Germans invaded in 1941, she was evacuated to the safety of Tomsk, in Siberia. It wasn’t until two years later that she learned that her beloved husband had been killed in the fighting around Kiev in August of 1941. The intensely patriotic woman (she and her husband had changed their last name to “Oktyabrskaya” to honor the October Revolution) now had a personal reason to get more involved in the war effort – a desire for revenge against the forces that had taken her husband from her. She sold literally everything she had, and offered to sponsor the construction of a T-34 medium tank, with one little string attached: SHE was to be its driver. Recognizing the tremendous public relations value of her gesture, the State Defense Committee agreed, even making sure she got the “peacetime” full training course instead of being rushed into battle. Oktyabrskaya and her T-34, with its name of “Fighting Girlfriend” boldly written on its turret were then posted to the crack 26th Guards Tank Brigade in September of 1943.
At first, the other tankers of the 26th Guards viewed her as a publicity stunt at best, and a joke at worst. That all changed in her first battle, a night action at Smolensk in October of 1943. Oktyabrskaya and “Fighting Girlfriend” charged into the enemy ranks, running roughshod over machinegun nests, destroying enemy field guns, and becoming the first tank of the 26th to smash through the enemy lines. Maybe this little lady was a real tanker after all.
On at least three occasions between October 1943 and January 1944, Oktyabrskaya, often disregarding orders not to, would leap out of her tank and repair it amidst heavy fire. In her final action, another night attack near Vitebesk, this proved to be her undoing. “Fighting Girlfriend” had been in the thick of the fighting, as usual, even accounting for an enemy self propelled gun, when a tread hit immobilized it. The plucky Sergeant leaped out, and got it fixed, but a burst of shrapnel sliced into her head, rendering her unconscious. Moments later, enemy guns found the “Fighting Girlfriend” and destroyed it.
Sergeant Mariya Oktyabrskaya was in a coma until March 15, 1944, when she finally passed away in a field hospital near Kiev. In August of 1944, she was posthumously made a Hero of the Soviet Union, her country’s highest military award. In spite of her undoubted patriotism, I tend to think she would have traded it straight up for having her husband alive and safe, or failing that, another crack at the enemy that took him from her.
MGSGT Jerome A. “ Gunny Hawk” Stoddard
Sergeant Major of the STARFLEET Marines