State of the NCO Corps May 2014
Time for our monthly trip to the booth in the back in the corner in the dark of my local NCO club, where if you don’t feel like wiping your boots when you come in, plan on walking on your hands the rest of the night, and when two dozen 660s (Aerospace Crew Chiefs) had a little contest to see who the most arrogant pilot they could think of was, it ended up in a 25 way tie for first place (some clown voted twice).
Let’s start off this time with a few numbers- this a "report" after all. According to the latest information pulled from the database, as I write this, 27.4 percent of the members of the STARFLEET Marines hold some form of enlisted rank. In other words, about one Marine in four is enlisted. And, since the SFMC makes up a bit over a quarter of STARFLEET, that makes about one member in sixteen of the larger organization we all belong to an enlisted Marine. The actual number is a bit higher - about eight percent of all STARFLEET consists of enlisted Marines. The numbers for non-Marines aren’t available to me, but if even two percent of the whole organization are strictly Fleet that also hold enlisted ranks, that means a tenth of STARFLEET is enlisted. So, for my fellow enlisted members, you’re NOT alone in your decision to avoid a commission and play our common game your own way.
Six years ago, when I became the Sergeant Major of the STARFLEET Marines, the best guess that anybody had was that MAYBE one Marine in ten or so held enlisted rank, and the total in the whole organization was perhaps a few percent. I can’t say for sure whether it’s simply having real data at last, or if, for whatever reason, the number of enlisted personnel has actually grown over those six years. All I can say is that, today, enlisted Marines form a significant part of our numbers, and I am proud to be YOUR voice on the SFMC General Staff.
Let’s face it - remaining in the enlisted ranks in STARFLEET isn’t exactly an easy path. There are a lot of good things about our organization, but the deck is stacked against enlisted members at times. As a high profile example, the basic STARFLEET Academy course that gives one an introduction to the club we all belong to is called "Officer’s Training School". The assumption seems to be that everybody wants to be an officer, and there can be a fair amount of subtle pressure (or sometimes not so subtle pressure) felt by those who prefer, for reasons of their own, to NOT be officers to join the mainstream and accept a commission.
I’m sure you can come up with your own examples of "Officer Centric" culture in STARFLEET, but I’m not here today to gripe about officers or demand that the Powers That Be do something about it. Instead, I’m here to tell you that all of this can lead to an "Us vs. Them" situation, and that’s never a recipe for success in any group of any size. It doesn’t matter which side starts it, the result is the same: people who joined a club to have fun end up sniping at each other, and soon, nobody is having any fun any more, and people find someplace else to play.
To be blunt, there are jerks on both sides of the Officer - Enlisted equation. Don’t be one of them. It’s ok to poke gently poke fun at one another, such as the plethora of old jokes about "butterbars" or about the anonymous enlisted crewmen in the various incarnations of Star Trek who exist mainly to die horribly before the commercial break or give the stars of the show someone to save. We’re all friends here, and friends often engage in teasing banter. But, let’s avoid crossing the line from teasing into sniping, and from pride in our own perceived place in STARFLEET to insulting someone else’s place and their personal decisions.
As usual, 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. As the Dant mentioned in the State of the SFMC this month: “If you don't report it, we can't reward it.”
Finally, I’d like to draw your attention to the three words that will stand for the STARFLEET Marine Corps going forward: "Virtus, Vis, Decretum", our new and unique motto. The Commandant has told you what that motto means, and how to pronounce it. I simply ask that you embrace it, along with our new logo and seal, and remember that we are the STARFLEET Marine Corps both as a real-life and a fictional organization, and NOT simply a pale copy of the US Marines in space.
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. In this space, over the years, I’ve introduced you a lot of remarkable “forgotten heroes”, enlisted members of their nations’ armed forces (mostly human) that may not be household words but who all did something exceptional, often an act of heroism in battle, that means that perhaps we can all learn something from them - not so much about the art of War, but perhaps about the art of Life itself. Well, this month, I’d like to introduce you to a total screw-up, a British Cavalryman that could well have his portrait hanging next to Prigal’s in some “Foul-up’s Hall of Fame”.
In 1831, Samuel Parkes was a 16 year old Staffordshire lad who lied about his age to join the Army, probably figuring that being a cavalry trooper was a more glamorous and better paying career than staring at the south end of a northbound plow horse for the rest of his life. To say his service to Queen and Country was undistinguished for the most part would be perhaps kinder than the facts warranted. He served in the First Anglo Afghan War, and managed to earn and then be stripped of a good conduct badge FIVE times between 1838 and 1850, and in that period spent 2 months in jail for being drunk on duty. During a career that spanned 26 years, he never rose above the rank of Private.
In 1854, he somehow managed to get a “soft” job as an orderly to the commander of his regiment, the 4th Light Dragoons when they were posted to Crimea for the latest war. And there, during one of the biggest foul -ups in military history, one of the biggest foul-ups in the Army did something remarkable. During the Charge of the Light Brigade, he got his horse shot out from under him, and was there when a trumpeter’s horse went down nearby. Two Cossacks swept in for the kill, only to be driven off by some furious sword work by Parkes. The two Englishmen tried to get back to their own lines when six more Cossacks came at them. Parkes’ sword started flying again, keeping the trumpeter safe as the two kept backing away. That ended when someone very unsportingly shot the sword out of his hand, and the two were taken prisoner and held for a year as captives by the Russians. Parkes reportedly didn’t have much of a problem with that. They were well treated, the food wasn’t bad, and nobody was shooting at him, or trying to part his hair with a few feet of sharp steel, But one strange thing did happen there.
Word had gotten out about his fight with those Cossacks, and Parkes became not only the oldest recipient of the Victoria Cross from the Crimean War, he became the first VC recipient to have been a POW. Surely that changed everything! Well, not so much …
After his discharge in 1857, Parkes eventually ended up working with the constables in the Hyde Park area. He got married, but left no descendents, and died at the age of 49 of “apoplexy”. His VC was supposedly traded for several pints of beer one night, and was eventually purchased at auction by officers of his regiment in 1954. And, for some reason, there was apparently a second VC owned by Parkes that was also auctioned off after his death, and was subsequently destroyed.
I’ll be honest. There isn’t much one can learn about the art of War, or the art of Life from the story of Private Samuel Parkes, unless it’s that even a foul-up can fight like a cornered rat if he’s cornered. And, perhaps that’s a lesson in and of itself. Sometimes the line between screw-up and hero can get a bit blurred, and only History can help us see the difference.
In service and in friendship,
MGSGT Jerome A. “ Gunny Hawk” Stoddard
Sergeant Major of the STARFLEET Marines