State of the NCO Corps June 2014
We’re running late this month, but let’s mosey on over to the booth in the back in the corner in the dark of my local NCO club, where the current pollen count is high enough that it’s being tracked by a Fleet astronomer instead of one of the local Meteorology guys, and that “Get Well Soon” card for the Dant that got etched into the armor of a tank with hand phasers was very good marksmanship, but was probably not the best idea some folks ever came up with at closing time.
Let’s lead off with a subject near and dear to my alleged heart, which would be the STARFLEET Marine Corps Marine Force Manual (MFM). Nobody expects you to have it memorized, but you should be familiar enough with it that you can very quickly know which section to look in to see if your question is already in The Book. If you’re not sure, you can do keyword searches in the PDF format very easily.
Other information you should attempt to become familiar with is the STARFLEET Membership Handbook. Again, just get a general idea of where things are, and be prepared to possibly do a keyword search if necessary. Since every member of the SFMC is also a member of STARFLEET, we’re subject to those rules as well.
One thing that’s very important to remember about any manual, whether SFMC or SFI is to be absolutely sure you’re looking at the latest edition. Things can and do change, and what you may remember from a few years back may no longer be entirely true. Before answering a question I’m fairly sure is in The Book, in one form or another, I always go back and check the latest edition just to be sure. And, I’ll usually either copy and paste the relevant passage, or at the very least refer to it by page or section number to allow someone to look it up themselves.
After all, this may just be a game, but games have rules, and we have a responsibility to do our best to play by the rules. Keeping everyone on the same page reduces frustration, and that keeps the game fun for all of us. And, having fun is a vital part of keeping our members.
Turning to community service, we’re beginning to get into the hottest part of the year for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. Perhaps one of the simplest acts of service we can do at this time of year is to take care of our neighbors and ourselves when the temperatures become extreme. That includes things like helping someone get to a cooler building for a while, or simply making sure they’re properly hydrated. (And that goes for me and thee personally - those black uniforms we wear can be a problem when it gets hot. I personally added a canteen to my Class C load out this month, and when my detachment and I get together outside, there’s usually a fair amount of water hauled along.)
Another major consideration that crops up this time of year is summer related disaster relief. We’re firmly into wildfire and tornado season in many places, for example. As a reminder, the organizations dealing with the aftermath of these events usually prefer that you just send them money for needed supplies. They have the connections to obtain those supplies, they just need help paying for them. Now, I realize that simply making a financial donation doesn’t qualify for any SFMC awards, but, as a reminder, putting in the time to raise funds in some way certainly does. Get creative, and find ways to help.
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. 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 continues to remind us: “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. During the American Civil War, not everyone involved in the fighting was born in this country, Such was the case for a 25 year old Canadian seaman who enlisted with the US Navy in 1863. History is silent on his reasons for stepping into the recruiting office in Detroit, Michigan that September day, and, to be honest, other than his being born in what is now Ontario in 1838, not much at all is known about his past, or his US Navy career.
One thing that IS known is the fact that he was serving as a common seaman aboard the stern wheeler USS Marmora in March of 1864 on the Mississippi River. The Marmora had been working at the mouth of the Yazoo River providing assistance to the Army and preventing the enemy from blockading the river. One of her primary jobs during the war was finding and removing mines (then called “torpedoes”) from the river. But, on March 5, 1864, the fighting around Yazoo City had gotten hot, and a detachment of sailors from the Marmora went ashore with a field gun to assist in the defense. Included in this detachment was that Canadian seaman - James Stoddard.
Stoddard and the other members of that gun crew were in the thick of the fighting, keeping their gun in action despite sometimes being involved in hand to hand combat against superior numbers. Stoddard himself was wounded in the neck, but fought on. He and two other seamen from the Marmora were credited with having “contributed to the turning back of the enemy during the fierce engagement,” and all three were awarded the Medal of Honor for bravely standing by their gun “despite enemy rifle fire which cut the gun carriage and rammer”. Stoddard was promoted to acting master’s mate a month later, and served with the Navy until he resigned in May of 1865.
And, there the story seems to end. There’s no trace of him in history after that. Perhaps he went back to Canada, or perhaps he stayed in the United States, possibly settling down in Michigan. In that case, it’s possible he may even be a direct ancestor of mine, but there’s no way of telling for sure. What is known is that in 1944, the Fletcher class destroyer USS Stoddard (DD 566), named in his honor, entered the service of the US Navy, and added another couple paragraphs to the history of the name.
The USS Stoddard earned battle honors in both World War II and later off the coast of Vietnam. She rescued downed pilots, provided gunfire support to ground forces, and, off Vietnam, even dueled with enemy shore batteries. She was decommissioned in 1969, and finally removed from the Naval Vessel Register in June of 1975 - the last Fletcher class destroyer on the rolls of the US Navy. But, she continued to serve her country despite being an old hulk not good for much of anything anymore. Until 1992, she was used as a test platform on the Pacific Missile Range, but in 1997, she was finally sunk … by US Navy SEALS somewhere northwest of Hawaii.
In 1864, a Stoddard emerged from obscurity to become a hero, and then vanished back into the mists of history. But, history didn’t forget his devotion to duty and his personal courage, and his namesake continued that legacy of service for decades in the 20th century. I’m not sure he was a relative, but, since stumbling on this story, I’d like to think the example of the two “Stoddards” in US Navy history will help me do my own job better in the SFMC.
In service and in friendship,
MGSGT Jerome A. “ Gunny Hawk” Stoddard
Sergeant Major of the STARFLEET Marines