State of the NCO Corps August 2014
Have a seat here in the booth in the back in the corner in the dark of my local NCO club, which finally re-opened after that “incident” during the IM “Pity Party” ( note to that Armor SGT - next time, ASK before deciding we needed a “Drive through” window) and I am relieved to report a certain MP butterbar who was responding to the “incident” eventually got his pants back.
Let’s start off with huge Tip of Top’s Slightly Soggy Boonie Hat (it’s been unseasonably rainy here the past week, so the Eight Point is hanging in my office) to SGM Brian Chappell, who I had the privilege of naming as this year’s recipient of the Star of Honor. SGM Chappell’s leadership, dedication, and incredible amount of community service, all while living in a small town, brought him to the top of a crowded and outstanding field of nominees for the award this year.
And, the future of the NCO Corps seems in good hands, to judge by the Cadet Star of Honor (grade 2) that I was pleased to award to CDT SGT Edward Tunis IV, based on a long and detailed nomination submitted for him.
I was also pleased to note that the STARFLEET Enlisted Member of the Year went to an SFMC NCO who has long been an inspiration to me, personally - my immediate predecessor in this office, SGM Marie “M” Smith. Her example of “Service Before Self” and her dedication to the NCO Corps have helped me be better at my own job, both at the Corps level and in my own unit.
Turning back to the Honor awards, I have to note that in many cases, the members of the NCO Corps were NOT just nominees for the Star of Honor. Names familiar to me cropped up in several awards categories, recognizing the outstanding service rendered to the SFMC by enlisted members. Who knows, perhaps someday, we’ll see a sweep of all Honor awards (save the Sword, which you’ll note is for “Officer of the Year”) by enlisted Marines? It very nearly happened in the Cadet Honor awards for this year, and these fine young people are the future of the SFMC.
One of the assigned responsibilities of my office is “promoting and assisting in the organization of community service activities at all levels within the SFMC,” so it’s probably a good time to remind you 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. Remember “If you don't report it, we can't reward it.”
Making sure that deserving Marines are rewarded goes a long way towards the critical goal of recruiting and retention. That process starts with each and every member of the SFMC. As I’ve remarked in the past, don’t wait for the Other Guy to write that award recommendation or even find something fun for your unit to do - the Other Guy is famous for dropping the ball. Maybe your recommendation or your idea won’t gain much traction, but you’ll never know until you try.
And that neatly segues into my usual reminder that 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. Earlier this year, when the SFMC General Staff was going over submissions for the new SFMC motto, I was forced to cast my mind back about forty years to my high school Latin classes on a few points of grammar and vocabulary. That brought back memories of reading Caesar’s “De Bello Gallico” (in Latin, of course) and a story about not one, but TWO centurions … a rank often considered to be the basis of the modern NCO.
Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullio were both centurions in the Eleventh Legion, and, according to Caesar, there was little love lost between the two. As the two advanced through the ranks, they apparently used to argue “with the utmost animosity” about who should be promoted, each deeming himself the better man for the job. As they both approached promotion to the coveted post of a “first rank” centurion, their rivalry reached its peak.
The Eleventh was engaged in a hot fight against the Nervii (one of the Gallic tribes), and as the two centurions looked out at the enemy from behind the field fortifications the Legions had erected as a matter of course, Pullio reportedly said to Vorenus "Why do you hesitate, Vorenus? Or what better opportunity of displaying your valor do you seek? This very day shall decide our disputes." And with that, Titus Pullio went over the palisade, and charged the biggest concentration of the enemy he could see. Caesar is silent on what Vorenus said - I imagine I couldn’t quote it here even if it HAD been recorded, but “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” probably comes close - but, not wanting to be shown up by his rival, Lucius Vorenus followed him into the fight.
Pullio waited until the range was very short, and then threw his javelin, killing one of the enemy. That brought a storm of enemy spears in response, and, because of the short range, one pierced his shield, and pinned his weapons belt to his body, and impeded his right arm so he couldn’t draw his sword from the scabbard that was now not where it was supposed to be. The Nervii swarmed over him, battering him to the ground, and stabbing at him as he lay under his shield.
But, Vorenus was right behind him, and HIS sword was out. The Gauls, assuming Pullio was dead or badly wounded, turned on the other centurion. Vorenus killed one, and his disciplined, trained sword and shield work had the others falling back. (As a side note, I can’t be sure, but it’s possible one of the Gauls may have said something like “These Romans are CRAZY!” right about then - points if you get the reference.) Then, Vorenus slipped and fell due to a hole in the ground, and the Nervii surrounded him and got ready to increase their bag of centurions for the day.
But, Pollo wasn’t dead, or even badly wounded, and Vorenus’s actions gave him a chance to get to his feet and draw his own sword, and it was his turn to come to his rival’s rescue. The two of them, after reportedly killing a fair number of the enemy as they made a careful fighting retreat back to the fortifications, were thunderously applauded by the rest of the troops.
Caesar closes the chapter by stating: “Fortune so dealt with both in this rivalry and conflict, that the one competitor was a succor and a safeguard to the other, nor could it be determined which of the two appeared worthy of being preferred to the other.”
History is silent on what happened to these two afterwards. It’s possible they may have even become friends. It’s almost certain that there was a new found respect for each other. But, reading this story again after all these years, one thing I am pretty sure probably happened is that, after the battle was over, the Primus Pilus (First Spear) - the top ranked centurion in the Legion -probably had a little chat with them, explaining the difference between being gutsy and being just flat out stupid.
In service and in friendship,
MGSGT Jerome A. “ Gunny Hawk” Stoddard
Sergeant Major of the STARFLEET Marines