State of the NCO Corps September 2015
As usual, I’m in the booth in the back in the corner in the dark of my local NCO Club, where we could really use a big shovel or maybe even a Combat Engineering Vehicle to clean up the “fertilizer” that stacks up during some of the late night “discussions“, and the mandated weekly meeting of Senior NCOs is still opened the same way: “Jacks or better, nothing Wild but Top.”
By now, you should be aware that the latest revision to the MFM is available for download at the Library section of the SFMC Website. That would be a STRONG Hint, folks. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say that the most extensive changes were made in Section 7 (Uniforms), including a new TNG era Class B uniform, and a new, “off the rack” Class A uniform, as well as organizing all the little “bits and bobs” authorized for wear on our uniforms.
And, with the publication of a new edition of the MFM, it’s once again time I reminded you all (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 …
Since this is the “State of the NCO Corps”, it’s perhaps time to look briefly at a couple of numbers from a recent data dump from the STARFLEET database. The following information may be assumed to be B.A.D. (Best Available Data). Of the roughly one quarter of STARFLEET’s total membership identified in the database as Marines (Active or Reserve) holding any sort of adult rank (which would exclude Cadets and those with no rank assigned), 20.1 percent hold enlisted ranks. When we add those excluded into the total, 23.7 percent of the SFMC does NOT hold an “officer’s” rank. In other words, about one Marine in five is enlisted, and only about three out of four Marines are officers.
As I promised last month, I’m going to briefly touch on the report I gave the Commandant for IC. In addition to my duties assigned by the MFM and Policy Manual, I continued to oversee and promote the March for the Disabled campaign. This component of the Commandant’s campaign has now been expanded to run all during the calendar year. And, I “put my money where my mouth is” by logging and reporting up the Chain of Command 20+ hours on this campaign since IC 2014, despite my personal disability and remote location. I also had to note that I quietly celebrated the milestone of serving over seven years in this post, spanning three administrations, and concluded with “Did NOT shove anybody, living or otherwise, headfirst into the trash disposal system, despite possibly justified provocation.”
That last bit is keeping with the last of my stated goals for the coming year, which included continuing to do the jobs assigned me by the MFM, Policy Manual, and Commandant, explore the possibility of collecting all the “History Lesson” segments into one document and making it available to the SFMC Library ( a few folks have asked me to do this – feel free to add your voice if you’d like to see it happen), and finished up with “Take my position seriously, but not TOO seriously to avoid burnout.”
As I’ve said many times before: SFMC does not stand for “STARFLEET Martyrs Collective.” We are supposed to be doing what we do because it’s fun, and keeping that firmly in mind is one of the reasons why I’ve lasted over seven years as SGM SFMC. Having said that, here’s my usual reminder that community service is a big part of what we do, but it 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. And remember: “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. For the most part, the military career of Sergeant Soichi Yokoi of the Imperial Japanese Army can be summed up with one word: undistinguished. Born in Nagoya in 1915, he was an apprentice tailor when he got drafted in 1941. Initially he was posted to the 29th Infantry Division in Manchuria, and then was transferred to the 38th Regiment, and sent to Guam in February of 1943. There, he was assigned to the supply depot, working mainly with the Japanese naval garrison on Guam.
Then came the US invasion and recapture of Guam in 1944, and I know what you’re thinking: Sergeant Yokoi must have done something dashing and heroic in that fight. Maybe he did, but nobody ever knew about it. What he mainly did, along with a lot of other Japanese soldiers on Guam, was to head for the hills when the battle was lost and the Japanese command structure was in shambles. They were told to “prefer death to the disgrace of getting captured alive.”
In the next few months, thousands were killed in mopping up actions, and by the end of the war in 1945, about 130 remained, hiding up in the hills and presenting no real threat. All they were concerned about was simply surviving and evading capture. Over the years, 114 of them either finally surrendered or were otherwise persuaded to come on in, and the rest died, often from malnutrition. But one of them was still out there- Soichi Yokoi.
Initially part of a group of ten soldiers, his group soon broke apart, and eventually he and three others settled in small, hand dug caves in the same general area. The others died in 1964, probably of starvation, since despite their efforts to live off the land, food was often in short supply, leaving him alone until January of 1972 when two local hunters checking their shrimp traps at night were attacked by a strange, emaciated figure in home-made clothing. Yokoi had assumed they were hunting HIM, and figured they were going to kill him. He made a desperate, weak grab for one of their rifles, but the two younger men easily subdued him, and brought him out of the hills at last.
For 28 years (over a quarter of that completely alone), Soichi Yokoi lived in a tiny cave, eating whatever he could catch or find growing wild, making clothing from bark and whatever he could scrounge on his forays under the cover of darkness. He had learned of the end of the war in 1952, but felt that to surrender even then would be dishonorable, and he continued his life of hiding.
To his surprise, when he returned to Japan, he was greeted with cheers, and considered a hero for his devotion to the “old ways”. He is quoted as saying upon his return simply “It is with much embarrassment, but I have returned.”
The former sergeant soon married, and settled down to a simple, rural life … mostly. He had become something of a celebrity, and often spoke and taught about survival skills and the benefits of austere living. He appeared on television, and even ran unsuccessfully for the upper house of the Japanese parliament in 1974. One small ambition of his, to meet with Emperor Hirohito was never achieved, but, in 1991, he had an audience with Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Palace, where he said “Your Majesties, I have returned home … I deeply regret that I could not serve you well. The world has certainly changed, but my determination to serve you will never change.”
Soichi Yokoi died of a heart attack on September 22, 1997, and was buried in his native Nagoya under a tombstone commissioned by his mother in 1955 when he had been officially declared dead on Guam. He was simply a soldier who did what soldiers have done through the ages: obeyed his orders to the best of his ability, and do his best to survive when doing so.
In his case, he didn’t just survive all those long, hard years hiding in the jungle on Guam. He faced the greater challenge of surviving a change to his country’s entire way of life and I’m thinking that must have been a profound shock to him at first, and something that he was never completely comfortable with. Sometimes, change is harder to survive than any jungle or enemy attack.
In Service and in Friendship,
MGSGT Jerome A. “Gunny Hawk” Stoddard
Sergeant Major of the STARFLEET Marines