State of the NCO Corps June 2015
Please join me in the booth in the back in the corner in the dark of my local NCO Club, where the air conditioning unit sometimes struggles to keep up with all the hot air from those “No Sierra ” there I was stories, and the kitchen staff tends to take their own sweet time on any errands that take them into the blessed relief of the big walk-in cooler lately.
For most of the SFMC ( with due apologies to the 11th BDE), we’ve slid into the time of year when outdoor activities, be it some form of community service or social activities (like picnics or various games) make having ready access to water (and sunscreen, especially for us glow-in-the-dark-pale types) a VERY good idea.
Dress appropriately for the weather, and please, keep an eye on each other for signs of distress.. 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.
And also remember, community service doesn’t 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.
On that note: as the time for the annual SFMC wide awards approaches, I’d be much obliged if you’d take the time to look around you at the good things some of your fellow STARFLEET Marines have been doing, then take a look through the Awards section of your copy of the MFM, and see what you can do about getting them some recognition at the Corps level. Any Marine can recommend another Marine for an award , don’t wait for the Other Guy to do it, because we all know the Other Guy is famous for dropping the ball.
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.
However, when it comes to questions, it’s likely time I once again reminded you with my tongue mostly in cheek, Marines every time you ask a question whose answer is clearly in The Book, or answer a question without looking in The Book to be sure you’re right, some reasonably omnipotent being somewhere in the universe takes a completely innocent little adorable puppy, fluffy bunny, or playful kitten, or their alien equivalent, and cruelly promotes them to butter bar. Please, Marines think of the puppies, bunnies, and kittens (and alien equivalents)! Check the current Marine Force Manual (MFM) FIRST (And remember that the Policy Manual is included by reference in the MFM, so Read The FULL Manual.)
Now it’s time for Top’s History Lesson. In April of 1991, the President of the United States presented a long overdue Medal of Honor to the surviving sisters of an NCO whose name by rights should rank up there with men like John Basilone or Alvin York when we talk about heroes rising from the enlisted ranks, but who had remained relatively obscure since his death in combat seventy three years before that ceremony. The name of Corporal Freddie Stowers had turned up during a review mandated by Congress of old records of holders of the Distinguished Service Cross who might have been denied a Medal of Honor unfairly Stowers had been recommended for the award almost immediately following his death in November of 1918, but nothing had ever come of it (the official verdict was the paperwork got (misplace). You may feel free to be a bit skeptical about that, because Corporal Stowers was a member of the 371st Infantry Regiment, 93rd Division, serving under the direct command of the French, even though they were part of the American Expeditionary Force. You see, the 93rd’s full designation was the 93rd Infantry Division (Colored). Due to the policies of the time, it was decided that the segregated 93rd would best be utilized as badly needed reinforcements for the French Red Hand division, and they were placed under the direct command of General Goybet. It was his orders that had C Company of the 371st, where Stowers was an assistant squad leader, in the lead of an assault on a heavily defended hill overlooking a farm near Ardeuil-et-Montfauxelles, in the Ardennes.
The attack was barely under way when the enemy began indicating that they wished to surrender both verbally, and by actions such as standing atop their positions with their hands held in the air. But, it was a trap, and as C Company advanced to take the offered surrender, mortars and machineguns opened up on them at close range. In short order, Stower’s platoon had taken over fifty percent causalities, and had lost not only their commanding officer, but all their senior NCOs. 22 year old Freddie Stowers had just becoming the ranking member of his battered unit, and what he did next, in a fair and impartial universe, should have been the stuff of Hollywood.
He began crawling forward to the closest enemy machinegun nest, and what was left of C Company followed him. Despite the strong defenses, they succeeded in overrunning and capturing the enemy position, but that wasn’t good enough their orders were to TAKE that hill, and Stowers took some time to reorganize his small force, and then personally led a charge against the next line of trenches. He kept low, like any well trained soldier would, but he was hit by machinegun fire. Still, Stowers kept going, and his men followed. He was hit again, and made it only a little further before collapsing from blood loss. Despite that, he urged his men onward, and inspired by his courage and dedication, the remnants of C Company continued the attack in the face of overwhelming odds against them, and with the rest of the 93rd involved in the fight following their lead, drove the enemy from the top of that hill and into the surrounding plains. But, Freddie Stowers never knew that. He died on that battlefield, and still rests in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial, along with 133 of his comrades.
But, the legacy of Corporal Stowers is not just a grave marker, or a battle won, or even his country’s highest honor for courage in the face of the enemy. As a direct result of the review of his case, in 1992 the US Army began looking into the cases of other soldiers who might well have deserved the Medal of Honor, but were given a lesser award instead due to racial bias on the part of the Decorations Board of their time. Several of them (or their surviving families) were eventually presented with the honors their actions had earned them back in the day.
Decades after his death, the hero of that bloody November morning in France became a hero again for soldiers like himself and helped right old wrongs. Personally, I tend to rate that as an even greater reason to remember him now.
In service and in friendship,
MGSGT Jerome A. “Gunny Hawk” Stoddard
Sergeant Major of the STARFLEET Marines