State of the NCO Corps May 2015
Please join me again in the booth in the back in the corner in the dark of my local NCO Club, where we’re preparing for mosquito season in the usual fashion (20-liter jerrycans of bug repellent and a couple of Gatling phaser AA set-ups) and the rising level of the nearby river means the Catch of The Day just might be somebody’s garden shed before long.
It’s the time of year when your community service activities may well have you working outdoors, doing anything from manning a fund raising table to helping clear trash in a local park or along a local road. Please remember to dress appropriately and safely for those activities. The All Weather Work Uniform (aka Scotty C’s) found in the MFM 2012 beginning on page 47 was designed and approved with such activities in mind, and is probably one of the easiest STARFLEET Marine uniforms to put together. It may well be worth your time and effort to have your unit look into them. (And, if I can put together a set on a limited, fixed income while living in the Middle Of Nowhere, Montana, odds are you may have an easier time of it.)
Please keep an eye on your fellow marines if you’re working out of doors, especially in hot or inclement weather. From personal experience, I can tell you that sometimes it’s easy to overlook the first signs of heat exhaustion or being too chilled in yourself, and those problems can escalate quickly. If one of your fellow marines suggests you take five, and maybe get some water or get into shelter for a bit, thank them, and DO it. Remember, it’s not just a good idea – it’s official SFMC policy. MFM 2012 p 48: Our members are our most important asset and must be treated with care and respect for their safety and comfort. That includes YOU!
And also remember, community service doesn’ have to involve any sort of organized charity or cause at all. Just giving of your time and energy to someone who needs a hand is the spirit of community service. But also 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. If you don’t report it, we can’t reward it.
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. Graduates of the SFMC Armor Branch school will likely tell you that despite what the Aerospace types think, there’s no MOS group in the SFMC that has more in the way of colorful traditions than those in the Cavalry. The thing most people tend to forget is that cavalry traditions are just as rich and colorful from places far removed from the American West, and when it comes to that, you’d have to look hard to find a more colorful bunch than the Royal Scots Grays, who, if you count their late 17th century predecessors, had a long and storied unit history that covered nearly three centuries (up until 1971, when they became part of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards). From their distinctive uniforms, to their trademark of being all mounted on gray horses (and when they became an armor unit in World War 2, their Sherman II tanks got painted in a dapple gray camouflage) the Scots Grays set a high standard for colorful traditions. And, two of their most distinctive bits of color – the regimental cap badge and the regimental nickname – owed their existence directly to the actions of one NCO.
James Ewart was born near Kilmarnock in 1769, and at the age of 20, enlisted in the cavalry. He was a big man, even by modern standards, reportedly standing 6 feet 4 inches in height, and possessed of Herculean strength. He was said to be a very good rider, and an absolutely top notch hand with a sword. By the time of the Battle of Waterloo, he served as the fencing master for the Scots Grays, and was a well respected and notably tough soldier. At Waterloo, the Scots Grays were part of the 5th Division, held in reserve on the right flank, backing up the Dutch-Belgian 2nd Division. The Dutch and Belgians found themselves being forced back over the ridgeline by the French infantry, spearheaded by the 45th Line Infantry. The Infantry of the 5th division, led by the famed 92nd Highlanders were ordered to stop this advance, and fierce fighting broke out. The French were veteran troops, and determined to break through, until, finally, the heavy cavalry (including the Scots Grays) that had been held in reserve out of sight, were ordered into the fray.
Despite any legends you may have read, the charge of the Scots Grays was actually more of a determined, orderly advance at a walk. The terrain, and the presence of the 92nd (still engaged with the French, but in danger of being forced back) ruled out the sort of thundering mass of horseman legend portrays, but even at a walk, the Grays were tough and able to punch through, rallying the 92nd as they passed through their lines to engage the French 45th, who had formed into columns in anticipation of breaking through the Highlanders. Suffice it to say, the presence of big men, on big gray horses, skilled and relentlessly drilled with their heavy sabers, was NOT what the 45th was prepared to deal with. The Scots Grays caught the French trying to switch back from columns to a defensive line, and rolled over them.
One of Napoleon’s traditions created for his troops, in order to link them back to the glories of France’s past, was the presence of Eagles like the legions of Rome had once carried as regimental standards. These were often proudly borne at the head of any regiment on the move, and this was the case with the 45th that day. Sergeant Ewart spotted the symbol of the French regiment and its guard in his path, and decided to try to capture it. He rode forward, and engaged the standard bearer and guard detail single handed. In his own words, recorded not long after Waterloo, this is what happened next: “One made a thrust at my groin, I parried him off and cut him down through the head. A lancer came at me – I threw the lance off by my right side and cut him through the chin and upwards through the teeth. Next, a foot soldier fired at me and then charged me with his bayonet, which I also had the good luck to parry, and then I cut him down through the head”. He then rode off back to his own lines with the 45th’s Eagle in one hand.
The capture of their Eagle finished the job of breaking the 45th as an organized unit. Sergeant Ewart was ordered to take his prize all the way back to Brussels, to make sure the French had no chance of re-capturing it, and although history records he did pause to watch a bit more of the fighting from a safe distance, he carried out his orders like the good soldier he was known to be. The French never did get that Eagle back – to this day, it is proudly displayed in the museum of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. Ewart was given the rare distinction of being promoted from the ranks, from Sergeant to Ensign (2nd Lieutenant), for his actions in seizing the enemy standard.
After that, an image of that Eagle became the main feature of the cap badge the Scots Grays proudly wore for the rest of their existence as a distinct regiment, and throughout the army, for the capture of that Eagle by Ewart, they became known as The Birdcatchers, all thanks to a big veteran sergeant, able to ride perhaps better than most and fight like few others could hope to match, who saw something important to enemy morale and decided he was going to take it away from them all by himself. Never underestimate the effect of a bright shiny object on an NCO.
In service and in friendship,
MGSGT Jerome A. ‘Gunny Hawk’ Stoddard
Sergeant Major of the STARFLEET Marines