State of the NCO Corps January 2012
As usual, I am coming to you from my reserved booth in the back in the corner in the dark of the local NCO club, where we frown on practicing PLFs (parachute landing falls) from the top of the bar (the paperwork gets filed under Training Accident and the damages come out of your own pocket) and the cook knows more ways to disguise Spam than a shady 20th century Internet site.
As I write this, 2011 is in the books and it has been a busy year for the enlisted members of the SFMC. It started with the new General Staff and MGSGT John “Kiwi” Kane being appointed as COFORCECOM. As the year continued, the various BDEs started passing out their annual awards, leading to a very tough decision when the International Muster rolled around that saw the Star of Honor being awarded to GSGT James “Fireball” Maarsingh and the first ever Cadet Star of Honor awarded to LCPL Noah Cook. Meanwhile, for the second year, the Cadet Star of Honor went to CDT SGT Anya Walker.
Remember that the MFM tasks the NCOs of the SFMC with taking a lead in their unit’s community service efforts. No matter how small the community you live in, there is ample opportunity for Marines to make a difference. No effort is too small, and please let me know of special efforts’ in your units so I can give you due praise in this report.
To that end, I would like to give a tip of Top’s eight-point to SGM Marie “M” Wilson, of the 20th BDE, who was Freezin’ for a Reason on New Year’s Day, as she and other members of her crew took part in a Polar Bear Plunge in an effort to raise funds for Special Olympics Great Britain. However, she went an extra mile, and worked to get word out to the rest of STARFLEET and the SFMC, drawing pledges from people outside her region, and contributing to the success of the endeavor. Bravo Zulu (Well Done), Marine!
By now, you should have gotten the word on the March for the Disabled, but just in case: members of the SFMC are being asked to undertake a special Corps-wide community service campaign in the March of 2012, with the goal of providing assistance and raising awareness for those with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. I need to stress that this is not aimed at a specific program like the Special Olympics, which the SFMC already supports through the Commandant’s Campaign, but rather any program or effort that takes on disabilities
2011 also saw the debut of a new Recruiting and Retention award, which formally retired and replaced the old recruiting badge, while FORCECOM established a Recruiting and Retention office to help the SFMC continue to grow. Given that the MFM also charges NCOs with taking a lead in recruiting and retention activities, this was big news for the enlisted members of the Corps. Again, a key word here is “retention”. It is not enough to get people to join the SFMC only to drop out again. Take the time to get know those new Marines, help them fit in, and be sure to reach out through the NCO Chain of Support with any questions or concerns you may come up with. One thing that can not be stressed enough: “I’m not sure, but let me find out.” is an acceptable answer to any question where circumstances warrant it. Take the time to get the facts, and be sure to be clear on whether your answer is a hard fact (say, by citing the MFM) or your personal opinion.
As always, remember that the SFMC General Staff is here to serve you. The email addresses are ALL on the SFMC web page, and their doors are always open. Your questions and input are always welcome and needed. And, remember that some of us tend to read and follow the SFMC group on Facebook, so feel free to comment and share with your fellow Marines there.
Perhaps the biggest news for me, personally, in 2011 was when I started compiling some hard data on the actual number of enlisted members in the SFMC. Anecdotal data suggested that it was in the 10-15 percent range, but after a year of compiling real numbers drawn from the reports of 5 BDEs of various sizes and locations (comprising about 40 percent of the total SFMC membership- a statistically significant sample), the real number appears to be over 25 percent, and the percentage in the sample is trending slowly upward. The enlisted membership of the Corps has proven to be widespread and apparently growing. There is no hard and fast answer on why this is happening, but I suspect it is due to the example set by the many fine “career NCOs” of the STARFLEET Marine Corps over time.
Now, it’s time for Top’s History Lesson. To many people, the Korean conflict of some 60 years ago is the “forgotten war”. Marines, of course, remember it for such things as the Inchon landing and “Chesty” Puller at Chosin Reservoir. But, we often forget it was an international effort, and soldiers from many nations of the UN fought there.
One of those was 24 year old PVT William Speakman, of the famous Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment), at the time attached to the 1st BN, Kings Own Scottish Borderers’. On November 4, 1951 the Scots came under heavy enemy attack beginning in the early morning hours, and by late afternoon fierce hand to hand fighting was taking place all along their line. PVT Speakman, attached to company HQ, learned that the left flank of their line had suffered severe casualties, including all its NCOs, and was being overrun. He decided on his own initiative to do something about it.
Speakman gathered up six men and some grenades …a LOT of grenades, and led his small party in a series of furious charges against the enemy, driving them off the crest of the hill time after time, and inflicting heavy casualties on the superior enemy force. After the tenth such charge, he was wounded in the leg, and was directly ordered to stand down and get the injury attended to. So, Speakman had a field dressing applied to the wound …and grabbed some more grenades. He continued to lead his small party in furious attacks on the enemy for a total of four hours, and his actions were credited with being directly responsible for the safe withdrawal of the rest of his troops.
According to reports of the time, at one point, with the supply of grenades running low, Speakman began throwing empty beer bottles at the enemy. Another report states that he threw rocks, sticks, or whatever came to hand. In all, he led 15 successful charges against an enemy force numbering thousands. His personal courage and outstanding leadership enabled his little band of troops to fight the enemy to a standstill, and a grateful nation recognized this, when William Speakman was granted the supreme honor of the Victoria Cross by a young Queen Elizabeth II (Speakman was the first person she gave her nation’s highest award to).
Speakman was not one to rest on his laurels. Instead of courting the fame his decoration brought, he continued to serve the armed forces of Great Britain until his retirement in 1967 (after 22 years of service), eventually rising to the rank of Sergeant. As I write this, at 84 years old, he is the second oldest living holder of the Victoria Cross, and his story serves as an example to enlisted soldiers everywhere. The London Gazette had this to say on December 25, 1951:
“His great gallantry and utter contempt for his own personal safety were an inspiration to all his comrades. He was, by his heroic actions, personally responsible for causing enormous losses to the enemy, assisting his Company to maintain their position for some four hours and saving the lives of many of his comrades when they were forced to withdraw from their position.
Private Speakman's heroism under intense fire throughout the operation and when painfully wounded was beyond praise and is deserving of supreme recognition.”
MGSGT Jerome A. “Hawk” Stoddard
Sergeant Major of the Starfleet Marines