State of the NCO Corps April 2014
Please join me in the booth in the back in the corner in the dark of my local NCO club, where this past month, a bit of local flooding appeared to conclusively disprove that old myth that E-9s walk on water (A certain old Master Gunny did clear just enough on the bets made on it to make it worth drying out and cleaning up a formerly perfectly good pair of boots) and April Fool gags that aren’t exceptionally clever draw derision and sometimes a flash bang and a heavy stun.
As I write this I have recently passed my sixth anniversary as Sergeant Major of the STARFLEET Marines. So, I’m going to take a moment and send a special tip of Top’s eight point out to the people who have made this job something I love, and given me the encouragement to keep doing it for all these years. That would be … each and every person reading this. My thanks to YOU, the members of the STARFLEET Marine Corps for making a tough, sometimes even frustrating job something I enjoy, and for all the questions, comments, and support over the past six years that have helped me better serve the SFMC.
March is now over, but the March for the Disabled continues on, thanks to the Commandant having declared that the campaign has been expanded to cover the rest of the year. Sometimes this campaign has been referred to as “The SGM’s March for the Disabled”, but, really, I’m just the guy answering questions and making any necessary judgment calls. And, although it is part of the Commandant’s Campaign, the Dant would be the first to tell you that it’s not HIS either. Really, it’s YOUR campaign, a chance to be recognized for efforts that raise awareness or assist directly folks with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. It’s a way for almost any STARFLEET Marine to serve their community, and remember, part of that group being served may well include some of our own members.
Since we‘re on the subject, I’ll remind you that 1SGT Russell Selkirk has asked fellow members of the SFMC (and anyone else of a mind to help) to take a minute every day and cast a vote for him in a contest that would give him a chance at winning a new wheelchair accessible vehicle. You can find the link on the SFMC Facebook group, or in my report on the SFMC website from last month. Or, if all else fails, drop me an email and I’ll send it to you.
One thing I simply can’t stress enough is that “community service” need not be part of some organized charity or done on behalf of some national or international organization. Any effort made to help others that simply involves you giving up your own free time and energy to make a difference probably counts. The MFM (Marine Force Manual) goes into this in a few different places. And, please, make sure your unit OIC is aware of your efforts and includes the information in the bi-monthly report that goes up the SFMC Chain of Command.
Speaking of the MFM, I have been asked to remind you all (with my tongue mostly in cheek) that 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 don’t forget the current Policy Manual is included by reference in the MFM).
By now, you have all probably become familiar with the new SFMC logo and seal, and I guess it’s time for me to reveal a bit of inside information I received from the Marine who designed it. Our new logo and seal includes a bit of an “Easter Egg” that never fails to make me smile a little when I see it. You may recall that a few months ago, I let you know that a “mer-goat” or “capricornus” was used as an emblem by at least a couple of old Roman legions whose roots were as Marines in the Roman Navy. Any guesses what that star field smack in the middle of our new logo is? Yep, it’s intended to be the constellation Capricorn as seen from Earth.
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. There are many “forgotten wars” in history, little known to those of us not in some way directly associated with the events. Unless you’re in the 11th Brigade, odds are fair that you never heard of the New Zealand Wars, an escalating series of conflicts between the native Maori and the New Zealand government that ran from 1845 to 1872.
The biggest of those conflicts, running from July of 1863 to April of 1864 was the Invasion of the Waikato, involving at its peak about 14,000 Imperial and colonial troops and about 4000 Maori warriors drawn from more than half the major North Island tribal groups. Those Imperial troops included the crew and Marines of the sloop HMS Harrier.
One member of the Harrier’s crew was a young petty officer who served as the Captain’s Coxswain, and had recently been promoted to captain of the foretop: 22 year old Samuel Mitchell. Mitchell served as part of the naval brigade, and participated in the battle of Rangiriri, a bloody affair that cost both sides more than any other battle in the whole series of conflicts.
As the Waikato campaign was winding down, Commander Edward Hay, captain of the Harrier, led an assault column of 150 sailors and Marines from his ship, along with an equal number of soldiers from the 43rd Light Infantry Regiment, against the Maori fortification at Pukehinahina, or the Gate Pa, on Tauranga Harbour. As his coxswain, Samuel Mitchell was close by his captain’s side as they entered a breach in the defenses. The force fell back within minutes under fire from concealed Maori warriors, “the men running away in an awful state of confusion.”
In the chaos, Hay was mortally wounded, and he ordered Mitchell to leave him. But, his coxswain was having none of that, and carried his captain out despite the heavy fire that endangered his own life. As he was dying, Hay asked the Commodore of the squadron to “get something for Mitchell his coxswain,” and Commodore Sir William Wiseman saw to it that Mitchell was promoted to Petty Officer First Class, and, incidentally, received the Victoria Cross for his actions.
In 1865, Mitchell left the Royal Navy and returned to New Zealand. He took up land on the Mikonui River near Ross, and settled in as a farmer. He was married in 1870, and he and his wife Agnes had 10 children together before he accidentally drowned in the Mikonui in 1894.
His grave stands today on a hillside near Ross. Eventually Agnes was laid to rest beside him. The marker on that grave makes no mention of his medal or his service, only that he and Agnes are “At Rest”. Perhaps that’s fitting - after all, the medal itself was in his sea chest and disappeared in 1864. Attempts to recover it went nowhere, but it eventually turned up in the collection of a British Army officer over 40 years later, and was purchased by his descendents in 1928, Today, it resides in the West Coast Historical Museum in Hokitika.
I think, if you could ask him, Samuel Mitchell would have told you that his medal was just for doing his job as he saw it, and his real accomplishment was his farm and his family.
In service and in friendship,
MGSGT Jerome A. “ Gunny Hawk” Stoddard
Sergeant Major of the STARFLEET Marines