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State of the NCO Corps, April 2011
Friday, 08 April 2011 13:05
Greetings Marines!

After an “interesting” week for me I’m in the booth in the back in the corner in the dark of the local NCO club, where the combination of melting snow and subsequent mud means a bigger, thicker doormat to trip over and there is nothing “practical” about some of the jokes we play on each other. (“El-Tee, I have NO idea how those peacocks ended up in SSGT Hatteras’ quarters or what the significance of those peach preserves and that lawnmower is …”)

On a far more serious note, the disaster in Japan drew a fair amount of comment on the Corps list regarding community service and awards. I am sure we all want to do our part to help out, and I have no problem with the idea of rewarding out members for their efforts to do so. But, as the Dant made clear, just writing a check is not going to earn you a ribbon. The only way to earn a Disaster Relief or Community Service award is to put in some of your own time and effort.

Now, while it is true that the Red Cross WANTS you to just write a check, there are some things you can do as well. First and foremost, if you can afford it, write the check, and understand that your “reward” for that will be the knowledge that you have done something decent for your fellow inhabitants of this planet. The second thing is to contact your local Red Cross and see if there is anything they can use a hand with. I would be willing to bet that there is PLENTY of opportunity to put in some volunteer hours.

One thing to consider is doing a little fundraising on your own for ANY charity you want to support. Essentially anything that brings in a little cash to support a worthy cause is going to take time and effort on your part. Collect recyclable bottles and cans and turn them in, or maybe clean out the garage or basement and hold a yard sale. Get the rest of your unit and chapter involved if you can. Get creative, and you might be surprised what you can accomplish.

No effort you can make is too small when it comes to giving back to your community. Keep up the good work, Marines, and please let me know about the contributions you make in terms of time and effort so I can share them with the rest of the Corps.

You may recall that I am working on getting some hard numbers, or at least a decent guess on how many enlisted members the SFMC actually has. Before I started collecting data, I was given estimates somewhere in the range of 10 to 20 percent of our total strength. I will be sending out a full report on my findings, but here is the bottom line:

According to the data sample (which consisted of 5 BDEs and comprised roughly 40 percent of the total membership of the SFMC), we can reasonably expect somewhere between 21 to 29 percent of any brigade to be enlisted, and it appears that for the SFMC as a whole, 25 percent of our overall strength hold enlisted ranks. In other words, about one Marine in four is enlisted, and since the SFMC accounts for roughly a quarter of the Membership of STARFLEET … well, I’ll let you do the math.

I will look at the data again after the June reports come in, and hopefully will be able to expand the data set to include the entire SFMC.

This past month marked my third year as SGM SFMC, and I would like to thank all the great Marines out there who make this job such a pleasure. A special tip of Top’s eight point goes to
the 313th MSG, the first unit in the SFMC to consist entirely of enlisted Marines. I am pleased to note that not only are the “Riven Seraphim” still going strong and still all enlisted, but according to FORCECOM, they are the largest single unit in their entire BDE.

Remember that one of my personal missions as SGM SFMC is to shine a verbal spotlight on the accomplishments of our enlisted members, and to do that, I need your help. Feel free to drop me a line and let me know what is happening in your unit or BDE.

Speaking of dropping someone a line, never hesitate 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. And, if you are not sure of which particular member of the GS is best equipped to deal with your question or comment, I can assure you that no matter which one you send it to, they will make sure it gets to the right person.

Now it’s time for Top’s History Lesson. If there is a “patron saint” of Marine NCOs, a good case could be made for the man that MGEN Smedley Butler described as "The fightenist Marine I ever knew!" Butler, who won a Medal of Honor in each of two separate actions, was of course speaking of the only other Marine to accomplish that feat: Daniel Joseph Daly.

Look through any list of notable Marine quotes, and odds are you will find this one:

"Come on, you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever?" GSGT Dan Daly at Belleau Wood

Except, that’s not quite right. You see, for starters, at the time, Daly (who eventually retired as a Sergeant Major) was a First Sergeant. And, Daley himself told a Marine Corps historian what he REALLY yelled was "For Christ's sake men—COME ON! Do you want to live forever?"

Same sentiment, slightly different words. Still, to lift a quote from one of my favorite Westerns “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend”, and there is no denying Daly’s fire and enthusiasm inspired his men at Belleau Wood, regardless of the exact words he used or what rank insignia was on his sleeve at the time. Accurate or not, the line lives on in Marine lore.

A few more notes on Daly.  He was a small man (Five foot six) and smoked a pipe, but did not drink. His first Medal of Honor was awarded in 1900, during the Boxer Rebellion in China. His second came fighting against insurgents in Haiti in 1915. During the battle of Belleau Wood, he received a Navy Cross for actions that included retrieving wounded men under fire, and attacking and capturing an enemy machinegun nest with grenades and his pistol. At the time, he was 44 years old. According to one author, Daly was recommended for another Medal of Honor for Belleau Wood, but was “only” awarded the Navy Cross and Distinguished Service Cross because some military leaders felt that nobody should have three Medals of Honor. Daly didn’t care, since he was not someone who liked the attention he got, saying medals were "a lot of foolishness."

Daly served as an active Marine from 1899 to 1919 (with a further 10 years as a reserve member of the Corps), and was noted not only for his courage and daring in battle, but also for his constant attention to the needs of his men. He was respected by both officers and enlisted Marines alike. In fact, MGEN John LeJeune, former commandant of the Corps, called Daly “the outstanding Marine of all time.” He reportedly was offered an officer's commission at least twice which he refused, saying that he would rather be, "...an outstanding sergeant than just another officer."

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!