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State of the NCO Corps, December 2010
Wednesday, 08 December 2010 13:00
Greetings Marines!

With all the hustle and bustle going on at SFMC HQ, I have retired to my usual spot at the local NCO club: the booth in the back in the corner in the dark, where I am about as far from the pneumonia hole as I can get and still catch the bartender’s eye, but am still close enough to take my turn at mopping up after some clown who forgot to kick all the snow off their boots.

By now, you doubtless know that I have been asked to stay on as SGM SFMC when the new GS takes over in January. I would like to thank BDR O’Brien for the opportunity to keep serving the Corps, and LGEN Roberts for giving the chance to do so in the first place. There is literally no other job in the SFMC that I would rather have than this one.

Going forward, things will be pretty much the same for me. I intend to stay involved in the SFMCA NCO Academy to help further develop courses of study and refine existing ones there. I will keep reminding you about community service and bringing up accomplishments of enlisted Marines. I will continue advising the Dant and GS, and bringing up issues you bring to my attention. One new focus for me comes as a result of me realizing just how many of our enlisted Marines are actually cadets. So, I need to wrap myself around the Cadet Manual and be ready to assist where I can there.

Speaking of the NCO Academy, if you missed the announcement from TRACOM, there are a couple of new courses over there this month. I urge you to give them a look. MGSGT John “Kiwi” Kane is to be commended for all the hard work he has put into expanding the NCO Academy’s curriculum the past year or so. Kiwi is, of course, stepping up to the vital role of COFORCECOM in January.( Which means I may have to give serious thought to moving a few more of the mops, buckets, and brooms out of the GS NCO Club by the end of this month.)

I have asked you to share with me some of your community service projects and efforts, and I want to take the time to share with you a report I got sent to me this past month. In that report, one of the enlisted Marines was noted as doing a surprising amount of work. This Marine has made fifteen blankets for Project Linus, collected donations for UNICEF, spent hours helping clip coupons for OCP, used some of their very limited funds to purchase Toys for Tots (as well as helping collect more), assisted at their state Special Olympics, and helped collect over one hundred cards for the Holiday Mail for Heroes program. This Marine is eight years old. When asked why she made so much of an effort in community service, CDT PVT Alexandra Shepherd replied simply “Because people need help.” I think the future of the Corps is in good hands.

While we’re on the subject of community service, I want to remind you again that I would take it as a personal favor if you would direct some of your efforts this winter towards helping those without adequate shelter and warm clothing. Remember HUGS (Hats, Underwear, Gloves, and Socks) and, if you can, help collect or just donate items that may make the difference between someone making it through the winter or not.

One goal going forward is to dig up more ways that a Marine who is pretty much out on their own can make a meaningful contribution to their unit’s community service activities. Your suggestions of worthwhile projects or causes that, say, someone in the middle of Nowhere, Montana can get behind would be greatly appreciated.

Please take the time to let me know about the accomplishments of enlisted members in your area, and your unit’s community service efforts. I would really love to be able to take the time in my monthly report to let the rest of the Corps know about it. (And, despite Marine tradition, I am neither all knowing nor all seeing.)

And, please feel free to contact the SFMC General Staff with any questions or concerns you have. 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.

With the change of the calendar comes a reminder that soon your BDEs will begin asking about nominations for annual awards. I will simply remind you this month that you should be taking a look at the Marines you know, and begin jotting down some notes for all those recommendations you are going to be writing.

Now it’s time for Top’s History Lesson. When you think of air aces, generally the names that come to mind are all officers, but would you be surprised to know that in World War Two, there were enlisted pilots on BOTH sides?

Consider Claude Kinsey, one of the “flying sergeants” of the US Army in the early part of the war. As part of a program to have more pilots available to ferry aircraft to the fighting, Kinsey earned his wings (and a whopping pay increase) as a buck private.

Early losses forced the Army to put every pilot they could into combat, and Kinsey is credited with seven victories over North Africa before he was shot down. (Regrettably, he was shot down by mistake by one of his own squadron.) Captured by the Italians, Kinsey eventually escaped in the confusion surrounding the transfer of Allied POWs to the Germans, and made his way back to Allied lines through over 100 miles of enemy territory.

The only flaw in this otherwise terrific story is that the Army had promoted Kinsey to 2LT before shipping him to North Africa. Although he is noted as a “flying sergeant”, he was actually an officer when he became an ace. But, since we can’t really count Kinsey as an enlisted ace, let me remind you that I began this section by talking about BOTH sides of the war. Sometimes we tend to overlook the soldiers of the other side, or just focus on the most famous ( or infamous) members of the opposing forces.

Out of sheer necessity, the Luftwaffe found itself needing pilots to replace losses, and rank held was second to the ability to fly in combat. Due to the heavy fighting they saw, a fair number of NCOs became aces. To give but one example, there was Feldwebel Herbert Koller, who served on the Eastern front with JG 54, Koller racked up 49 aerial victories from 1943 to 1945, becoming a true enlisted ace several times over.

Finally, as I write this, the holiday season is upon us, and I hope yours is happy, and filled with the presence of friends and family. (Yes, that was a slight pun). Best wishes for the coming year. Let’s make it a GREAT one, Marines.

Semper Fi!

MGSGT Jerome A. "Hawk" Stoddard
Sergeant Major of the Starfleet Marines

I want to lead off this month with a request on behalf of an old friend, a retired real world NCO who is also a SGT in the SFMC. SGT Frank “Uncle Grumpy” Stevens and I have known each other for over thirty years, and some of the stunts we pulled in the past are probably still not fit for discussion without presence of legal counsel. We have seen each other through good times and not so good times, and this is one of those not so good times for him.

Very recently, as a result of prior medical problems, he was rushed to the hospital and they were forced to amputate part of his left leg. This is hard on anyone, but SGT Stevens, in his words, “turned seventeen for the FOURTH time” this year, and his health has been in a downhill slide. Fortunately, his general stubbornness and warped sense of humor is seeing him through. (He has requested an SFMC Issue, one each, Parrot, Squawking type, and Peg Leg, wooden). Please keep a good thought out for him as he goes through the process of rehabilitation. (And I’ll try and get those requisitions expedited through Supply)

When it comes to community service, I have often urged Marines to be creative, and look for unexpected benefits. This past month, the 503rd MSG did just that when they committed to putting in thirty six man-hours of community service at the park (mostly clean-up) in exchange on a discounted rate for the state park site they were using for their annual campout. They ended up putting in forty hours, and the park wants them back anytime. Nice thinking out of the box, Marines!

Speaking of boxes, and community service, if your unit is not well underway with its plans for giving a hand with Toys for Tots this year, take the initiative and light a fire under them.

And, let’s not forget, as I write this, we’re only about a month away from November 11th. I hope all of us take the time to do what we can to say “thanks” and lend what aid we can to all the veterans out there.

Please take the time to let me know about the accomplishments of enlisted members in your area, and your unit’s community service efforts. I would really love to be able to take the time in my monthly report to let the rest of the Corps know about it. (And, despite Marine tradition, I am neither all knowing nor all seeing.)

And, please feel free to contact the SFMC General Staff with any questions or concerns you have. 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.

Now it’s time for Top’s History Lesson. This time I want to take you way back to the roots of the NCO: the centurions of the Roman legions. There are a LOT of stories to choose from, including a few saints, a possible basis for part of the Arthurian legend, or even the story of two bitter rivals who saved each other’s lives in one historic battle. But, I had to choose just one for this month and so I decided to introduce you to a man for whom no image has come down through history, for whom we know nothing about as far as his personal life is concerned, and yet who stands as a shining example for every NCO (and every Marine).

It was January 15, in the year 69 AD. Galba, the emperor who had replaced Nero, and his deputy emperor Piso Licinianus were travelling through the streets of Rome when they were set upon by a large number of members of the Praetorian Guard (the Imperial bodyguard unit) in the employ of Marcus Otho. Otho was furious that he had been passed over for the position of deputy emperor, and had decided to seize the throne, suborning members of the Praetorian Guard to use as his weapon.

The Praetorians escorting Galba and Piso either quickly switched sides, joining the attacking party, or just as quickly discovered someplace else they had to be right about then and melted away into the streets …all but one. Centurion Sempronius Densus had no special reason to love or honor Galba (who was apparently notoriously stingy, and not given to paying, much less rewarding his troops), but there was one thing he DID love and honor: his duty as a Roman soldier.

According to Plutarch: “First, lifting up his switch of vine, with which the centurions correct the soldiers when disorderly, he called aloud to the aggressors, charging them not to touch their emperor. And when they came upon him hand-to-hand, he drew his sword, and made a defense for a long time, until at last he was cut under the knees and brought to the ground.”

Savor those words, Marines. One man, a veteran soldier, facing down a small army on his own, and the FIRST reaction he has is to give them what was probably the chewing out of their lives, reminding them of the duty that he would not forsake. I like to think he treated the bunch of them like a group of hopeless recruits who messed up in training. When words did not win the day, he turned to action, and held his own against impossible odds until he got taken down from behind.

Galba and Piso were both killed, and Otho became emperor, but only for a short time, as he was deposed by Vitellius, who was in turn deposed by Vespasian. It would go down as the “Year of Four Emperors” in Roman history, and that January 15th was generally accounted as a shameful day, with one exception: the gallant last stand of Sempronius Densus, “the single man among so many thousands that the sun beheld that day act worthily of the Roman empire”  (Plutarch) A bit later than Plutarch, the historian Cassius Dio also told the story, and singled out Sempronius for praise, and I will close this history lesson with his final thoughts on the lone centurion who stood up for what he believed was right that day:

"This is why I have recorded his name, for he is most worthy of being mentioned." Darn straight!

Semper Fi!