State of the NCO Corps March 2012
State of the NCO Corps March 11, 2012
Once again I am here in the booth in the back in the corner in the dark of my local NCO club, where a full investigation revealed the hot wings sauce was NOT responsible for the damage to the kitchen (but the recipe has been changed Just In Case), and after a recent unfortunate incident at the holographic shooting game, we request that all sidearms be checked at the door.
By now, you should all know that the MFM tasks the NCOs of the SFMC with taking a lead in their unit’s community service efforts. NCOs are also tasked with taking a lead in recruiting and more importantly, retention of new members. So, how do we accomplish those assigned tasks?
To help with the first, remember, community service need not be some large scale effort. No matter how small the community you live in, there is ample opportunity for Marines to make a difference. No effort is too small. Even a few hours here and there will help. Think outside the box, and encourage and help your fellow Marines to do the same.
Right now, the special campaign dubbed the March for the Disabled is underway, and I certainly hope you are taking your chance to do your part. Please remember, there are many members of STARFLEET in general and the SFMC in particular that daily have to deal with the effects of some sort of physical, mental, or emotional disability, either for a loved one or for themselves. In the larger view, then, whatever you do for this special campaign of community service will follow the old tradition: Marines take care of their own.
Now, as to recruiting and retention, I am going to sum it up first in two words: Have Fun.
One thing that people often lose sight of is that the STARFLEET is primarily a social organization, not a real world military command. People should be having fun, enjoying time spent with people of similar interests. Perhaps the biggest reason people leave any sort of club is that, for whatever reason, it’s just not fun any more.
Do not get so caught up in your real world duties and responsibilities that you lose sight of this. Let your enthusiasm be an example to others, whether it be taking classes from TRACOM or SFA, or simply refusing to let a gathering or event fail because poor planning is making everyone miserable.
As the saying goes: Adapt, Improvise, and Overcome. Refuse to be a source of negativity, but instead find a way to make things work. Most importantly, have fun yourself. You will do the rest of your Marines no good if you are constantly feeling over worked and burn out.
However, while you should be having fun, you should also remember that as a STARFLEET Marine NCO, you should always strive to lead by example. You should not only “talk the talk”, but you should also “walk the walk”. For instance, it is no use telling other Marines that they should take care in their appearance if you show up at meetings or events looking like an unmade bed, or advising a professional approach to a problem if you are constantly flying off the handle publicly. Remember the slogan of the SFMC NCO Corps: Excellence in Everything We Do.
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.
Now, it’s time for Top’s History Lesson. Before I begin, I would like to give a special tip of Top’s eight point to PVT Jamie Spracklen of the 20th BDE, a fellow lover of history who pointed me towards a story I felt I just had to tell.
When you put the words “Marines” and “World War One” together, most of us immediately make a mental leap to Belleau Wood, a name that will echo through Marine history. But, there is another battle that should have a similar place of honor among the annals of the Starfleet Marines, a place where Marines struggled against heavy odds and bad luck: the Zeebrugge Raid
On April 28, 1918, a motley force of 75 expendable vessels of various sizes, including the obsolete cruiser HMS Vindictive, sailed for the port of Bruges-Zeebrugge in Belgium. The objective was to block the harbor used by enemy U-boats and light shipping and further secure the English Channel. The old Vindictive was the key to the plan. Her armament had been mainly stripped and replaced with howitzers, flamethrowers and machineguns to support the 200 Royal Marines given the key job of launching a critical landing at the entrance to the Bruges Canal.
As often happens, the plan did not survive contact with the enemy. A shift in the winds made the air-dropped smokescreen ineffective, and Vindictive came under heavy fire from shore positions. Worse yet, she came up hard against the mile long Zeebrugge Mole in the wrong position, rendering most of her weapons ineffective, and unable to support the Royal Marines. In fact, she was fighting for her own life as the enemy poured fire into her from the Mole. About the only weapons that could br brought to bear to suppress enemy fire were the “pom-poms”- Bofors light cannon with a high rate of fire- and the Lewis machineguns in her foretop. These were manned by members of the Royal Marine Artillery, and second in command of those Marines was 27 year old SGT Norman Augustus Finch, a 10 year veteran.
Vindictive was being hit by enemy fire every few seconds, and steel splinters were flying everywhere, but the Marines in the foretop kept pouring it on, shifting targets rapidly in order to suppress as much enemy fire as possible. Finally, two heavy shells hit the foretop, putting most of the guns and all but one of the Marines out of the fight. SGT Finch manned the remaining Lewis gun, in spite of being heavily wounded. He kept up his fire on the enemy guns from his battered and exposed position, ignoring the fire being directed back at him until another direct hit on the foretop put his gun out of action. His actions in suppressing and ultimately drawing enemy fire were to be credited with saving many lives
Although it was hailed in the press at the time as a resounding victory, the truth is the Zeebrugge Raid was pretty much a failure. Of the 1700 sailors and Marines in the action, over 200 were killed and 300 wounded, and poor timing of the scuttling of the block ships meant that the enemy could dredge channels past them in a matter of days. But the courage and discipline under fire displayed by so many involved could not be denied. For his actions in the foretop of Vindictive that day, SGT Norman Augustus Finch, Royal Marine Artillery, was selected by the 4th Battalion of Royal Marines, who were mostly Royal Marine Light Infantry, to receive the Victoria Cross under Rule 13 of the Royal Warrant, dated 29th January 1856. Essentially, what this means is that the entire unit was held to have performed admirably, and they were given the chance to CHOOSE which of their members would receive the honor personally.
Finch went on to retire as a Quartermaster Sergeant in 1929. In 1931 he was made a Yeoman of the Guard. When World War Two broke out, he rejoined the Royal Marines and served quietly as a quartermaster throughout the war, In 1964 he was made Divisional Sergeant-Major of HM Bodyguard of the Yeoman of the Guard, He passed away in 1966.
Anybody can reasonably be expected to perform well when things are going according to plan. The real test is what you do when Stuff Happens. The next time the Stuff is flying at you, remember Norman Finch, who kept fighting until the enemy literally blew the gun out of his hands.
MGSGT Jerome A. “Hawk” Stoddard
Sergeant Major of the Starfleet Marines