State of the NCO Corps September 2012
(Note: I apologize for the lateness of this report. I have been sick off and on for a week, and did not get it sent off in a timely fashion.)
State of the NCO Corps September 9, 2012
Once again, it’s time for me to take a little break from all my other duties and settle into the booth in the back in the corner in the dark of my local NCO club, where the Meteorology types have unveiled their new technology (instead of a dart board, they are now using a fancy random number generator cross indexed with a list of possible weather conditions), and the cook is recovering from being pelted with the Brussels Sprouts he tried to foist off as bar snacks- next time, try dipping them in chocolate.
As you probably know, for over a year now, I have been tracking a sizeable sample of the SFMC consisting of 5 BDEs from all over, and of various sizes to estimate the percentage of enlisted members of the Corps. The latest data point is more or less good news/bad news. The good news is the sample still supports an estimate of 25 percent of the SFMC holding enlisted ranks. The bad news is that the percentage of enlisted members in the sample dropped from the previous data point by a fairly significant amount. The February reports showed 31.8 percent enlisted in the sample, but the June reports dropped to 27.8 percent- which is very close to what they were in June of 2011 (28.0 percent).
So, what does that mean? All along, I had suspected that the percentage from earlier in the year might mark a high point for the enlisted percentage that was probably not going to be sustainable, and my best guess is the sample will continue to show roughly 27 to 28 percent enlisted members if everything stays the same.
Of course, there is no need for everything to stay the same. One of the duties SFMC NCOs are charged with is recruiting and retention, and, as always, retention is the key word here. One of the best ways you can make a difference in recruiting and retention is to simply provide a good example for everyone on your unit/chapter-officers and enlisted alike. There are many ways to do this, but one of the simplest is by simply showing up and presenting a positive attitude and a squared away appearance.
While we are on the subject of appearances, I need to take a moment to talk about rank insignia for enlisted Marines. I completely understand that sometimes USMC chevrons may be all that you can get your hands on, and frankly, for most enlisted ranks it takes a pretty sharp eye to spot the difference when it is a small pin on the collar, But, fairly recently some Marines have started wearing the Mecha Black uniform, complete with the sleeve stripes that are not in the text, but are shown in the picture in the ME manual. In this case, those stripes are not a small silver pin, but are large fabric appliques on the sleeve, and if you use USMC stripes there – well – I get emails about it. The large sleeve stripes leave no doubt that USMC, not SFMC insignia are being worn, and that understandably bothers some people. Feel free to wear the uniform, but, please, if you are going to make the effort of having a custom uniform like that made, do it right, and use proper SFMC rank insignia.
Every month I take the time to remind you that community service is something the SFMC encourages (and rewards), but I also want to remind you that the biggest encouragement and reward one can get from community service is the simple knowledge that you have made a difference for someone, however small. With that in mind, please remember that almost everyone can do a simple act of community service by looking out for your friends and neighbors in times of severe weather or natural disaster. Charity, as they say, begins at home.
Now, what is the surest way to get recognized for community service activities? Every unit in the SFMC has to file a report every other month. Make sure that your activities get into that report, and those activities get reported up the Chain of Command. And, don’t let it stop there. If you are aware of community service by a fellow Marine who prefers to fly under the radar, write an award recommendation yourself. Remember: the Other Guy is almost certain to drop the ball.
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. Beginning on the night of October 24, 1942, a force of US Marines and US Army troops fought a desperate battle against enemy forces determined to retake the airfield on the island of Guadalcanal. Over the next two nights, the fighting was fierce, and often devolved into hand to hand combat in the dark. Students of history might recall the heroic actions of SGT “Manila John” Basilone during that frantic defense (and if not, rest assured I will be covering him in this space at some point in the future), but you may not have heard of another Marine NCO who went above and beyond the call of duty during that long fight.
At 0300 on October 26, 1942, the enemy launched a final attack- this time against the more or less isolated forces of the 3rd BN, 7th Marines, who were deployed forward of the main defensive line for the airfield. The brunt of the regimental strength attack fell on one unit- Company F of the 3rd BN, and in particular on the company’s machine gun section, led by Platoon Sergeant Mitchell Paige.
For two hours in the darkness, Paige directed the fire of his guns, but one by one the men of his section fell, dead or wounded. Finally, there was nobody left standing but Paige, who continued to fire on the enemy. When his gun was destroyed, he simply moved to another one. Moving from gun to gun, he prevented the enemy from exploiting the hole they had opened in the Marines’ line. In the darkness, the enemy had no idea that all that fire was coming from one Marine. Finally, a little after 0500, a few hastily scraped up reinforcements arrived. What happened next was something out of a bad war movie, or a comic book.
Realizing that soon it would be light enough for the enemy to see how few Marines were facing them, he ordered the riflemen to fix bayonets, and then PICKED UP the massive water cooled Browning .30 caliber machinegun next to him, slung a couple of extra belts of ammunition across his shoulders and led a bayonet charge against the surprised enemy, hammering away with his Browning and driving them back.
For his actions that night, Paige was given a field promotion to 2LT less than a month later, and in May of 1943, was awarded the Medal of Honor. He stayed in the Marines, served in Korea, and eventually retired in 1959 as a Colonel. In his later years, he served to ferret out imposters wearing or selling the Medal of Honor. On November 15, 2003, Paige died of congestive heart failure at his home in La Quinta, California at the age of 85
But before that, in 1998, the Hasbro company was preparing to issue a special series of 12 inch GI Joe action figures. The series of Medal of Honor Winners featured each branch of the US armed services, and for the Marines, the box shows a Marine in WW2 uniform firing a Browning machinegun from the hip – Mitchell Paige. The figure’s accessories included the Springfield rifle and long bayonet the Marines were using at the time, and of course, a big water cooled Browning .30 with 2 belts of ammo, and the figure itself is a decent likeness of Paige. A quick internet search shows that they can still be found today.
Excuse me while I update my holiday wish list.
MGSGT Jerome A. “Hawk” Stoddard
Sergeant Major of the Starfleet Marines
sgm_sfmc at sfi-sfmc.org