State of the NCO Corps July 2015
State of the NCO Corps July 2015
As we head over to the booth in the back in the corner in the dark of my local NCO Club, please note that despite the weather and the rather difficult intervening terrain, it still doesn’t qualify you for the Wilderness Challenge ribbon, and the Special of the Day is “pretty much anything that doesn’t require a hot stove to make.”
You have probably worked out already that, yep, it’s still summer here, and the same holds true for where most of you are living. And, you’ve probably guessed what’s coming next, because it’s a “community service” that’s often overlooked.
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, while you’re at it, keep an eye out for others in your community that may be having problems due to heat, storms, or any extreme weather, and if you can lend a hand, even in some small way, I’d appreciate it.
There are times you must think that the next bit is tattooed on me somewhere, but it‘s something often overlooked, and so I‘ll keep reminding you: 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.”
Speaking of recognizing outstanding effort, this past month, I had the privilege of being a part of the Honor Awards process for the eighth year in a row. I can’t be sure, but I think anyone who’s ever been on the SFMC General Staff might agree with me that it is one of the toughest parts of being a GS member, and yet, one of the most personally satisfying. To go over the various nominations and have sitting in front of you the accomplishments of the best the SFMC has to offer … and then having to CHOOSE among them, because there can be only one winner, involves a great deal of thought. Often the difference between who gets the ribbon and who does not comes to the thinnest of edges, maybe even just a few words in the nominations we receive, and making that call is never easy. So, well in advance of IC/IM, let me just say that, from where I sit, there are no “winners” or “losers”, and I hope that those whose names aren’t announced for the ribbons understand that, and keep up the good work.
And, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a very special, very big and elaborate Tip of Top’s Eight Point to all those fine folks who began the whole process by taking the time to write nominations for their fellow members of the SFMC, whether it be for Corps level recognition like the Honor Awards, or even something as simple as some “unofficial” recognition at the unit or chapter level. Bravo Zulu (Well done!) and thank you for your service to the STARFLEET Marine Corps as a whole!
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. Often in this space, I have introduced you to enlisted heroes, often those played a pivotal role in war, and displayed courage and devotion to duty and to their comrades in arms above and beyond what might be expected. Among them are some of my personal heroes, and I take inspiration from them as I perform my duties as SGM SFMC. This month, I have added a new hero to that list of those who make “Service Before Self” and “Excellence in Everything We Do” more than words to me, and it’s someone who did it without firing a shot or raising a hand in anger.
Just this past month, 39 year old Gunnery Sergeant Francine Jarrett was retiring after 20 years as a US Marine. She had most recently served as part of Enlisted Professional Military Education, Marine Corps University at Marine Corps Base Quantico, where she practiced what she preached: the importance of continuing education. Jarrett earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees while in the military. Her coworker, Master Sergeant Zachary Bourgeois, had arranged her retirement ceremony, which featured letters from the President, and the Commandant, and speeches praising her leadership, honesty, and compassion. There were flowers, and cheers, and then it was Master Sergeant Bourgeois’s turn to present one last gift in appreciation – a gift from him.
Leading up to her retirement, he had asked her “100 times” about various Marine memorabilia, trying to get a hint of what might make the perfect gift for the “picky“ Gunnery Sergeant, and one conversation stood out. Jarrett’s face lit up every time she spoke about the poster that had inspired her to enlist 20 years ago. Instead of the usual “military” images, it featured three proud women in dress blues, and the caption “After years of fitting in, maybe it’s time to stand out!” She recalled saying to herself “ They can shoot, they can do everything else, and they are gorgeous. This is it, I’m joining the Marines.” Bourgeois knew that he had his answer, and he acquired a copy of that poster to have suitably framed. But, he didn’t stop there.
He managed to track down those women, and after contacting them, and telling them about Gunny Jarrett‘s retirement, he drove to their homes himself so each of them could sign the poster that had inspired Jarrett all those years ago. When the large package, wrapped in simple brown paper, was opened at the ceremony by Jarrett, her hands flew to her face in delight and surprise. It was absolutely perfect and a jaw-dropping gift, but, Bourgeois wasn’t done yet.
You see, one of the women in the poster, who had retired after 22 years in the Corps, lived fairly close by, and she had asked the Master Sergeant if it might be possible to attend the retirement ceremony. At that moment, I’m guessing a light went on for Bourgeois, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he got that Look in his eyes that for ages has signified a senior NCO with a truly inspired Plan.
As Jarrett received her framed poster, the other shoe dropped, as all THREE of the subjects of that poster came on stage, to gasps not just from Jarrett, but from other members of the audience when they realized what was happening. Jarrett couldn’t hold back the tears as she said “The ladies are here?” and she hugged each one of them.
“Marines take care of their own”. Master Sergeant Zachary Bourgeois went the extra mile to do just that for a fellow NCO. As she retired, Gunnery Sergeant Francine Jarrett received a reminder of why she had become a Marine in the first place, and a memory she will carry to her grave that, to a fellow Marine, her service demanded nothing less than perfection in a parting gift.
(Hat tip to Matthew Miller for drawing my attention to this story.)
In service and in friendship,
MGSGT Jerome A. “Gunny Hawk” Stoddard
Sergeant Major of the STARFLEET Marines