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State of the NCO Corps, July 2011
Sunday, 03 July 2011 13:02
Greetings Marines!

As usual, I am ensconced in the booth in the back in the corner in the dark of my local NCO club, where no matter what time of year it is or what the local conditions are, we can find something in the weather to gripe about, and the dartboard has a holo emitter nearby to produce images of the annoyance of your choice in the bullseye (which does wonders for most people’s score).

In my real world area, we are singing “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” and seriously considering a mass transfer to Maritime Ops as localized flooding continues. Elsewhere, people are cleaning up after tornadoes, keeping a nervous eye on extensive wildfires, and of course, there are still disaster relief efforts under way and assistance needed in places like Japan and New Zealand. In addition to all of that, there are countless less publicized problems affecting people in just about any community you care to name. So, there are countless opportunities for the members of the SFMC to turn to and lend a hand.
 
I will remind you again that “community service” does not automatically equal “organized charity or program”. Take a look around where you live and I am willing to bet that you can find someone in need of a hand or a job that needs done. 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.
 
It is rapidly approaching THAT time of year. As I write this, the call has gone out for nominations for the Corps’ annual Honor awards, as well as the other awards to be presented at IC/IM. So, this is a good time to mention that those of you who have sent up recommendations for your fellow Marines this year are to be commended.  Those of you who have been relying on the Other Guy to do it … well, odds are it is not going to get done.
 
This is a good place to announce that, with the permission of the Dant, my State of the NCO Corps for next month will not be released until AFTER IC/IM is underway to allow me an opportunity to congratulate the Star of Honor winner in this space in a timely fashion. It promises to be a strong field of candidates this year, and I am looking forward to the headache that choosing the eventual winner entails, as well as participating in the process for choosing all the Honor award winners.
 
This will be a busy month for me, as in addition to my normal duties, I am in the process of collecting and analyzing data for the second phase of my study on the number of enlisted members of the Corps. Once the data is in, and analyzed, I will be letting you all know the results.
 
You may recall that my initial round of data collection showed that perhaps 20-25 percent of the SFMC hold enlisted ranks. Anecdotal data (which means stuff folks tell me without any hard numbers to back it up) suggests that this is a big increase over the past five years or so. I have already heard that the numbers from some of the BDEs in my sample may prove very interesting.
 
As promised/warned, I am going to continue to remind the NCOs out there that the Book expects them to not only be taking the lead in community service, but also in the area of recruiting and retention. Recently I received an email from a chapter CO who told me that they use their Marine NCOIC as a point of first contact for new members simply because they felt that people would be less “intimidated” by someone who is not an officer, and it seems to be working out well for them.
 
One of the keys to recruiting and retention of new members is to make them feel comfortable and ät home” as soon as possible. Some folks tend to worry that a recruit may be the proverbial “square peg in a round hole” in their unit or chapter. Might I respectfully suggest that you find them a hole they DO fit into? Doing so may even provide the rest of your unit/chapter with something new and fun to do as a group.
 
Now, it’s time for Top’s History Lesson, and we are going to veer off from real world history into the history of the Star Trek franchise. Perhaps I should have called it Canon Fodder for this month?
 
 Ask the trivia question: Who was the first recurring enlisted character in Star Trek, and most people will smile and say “Miles O’Brien”. And, they would be wrong.
 
You see, the very first episode of Star Trek that ever aired had a named enlisted crewman who went on to feature prominently in several episodes of the first season, before “leaving for another ship” between season one and season two. Ringing any bells? This enlisted crewman eventually returned to the Enterprise to serve as Transporter Chief in the first movie, and eventually DID take a commission, but only after a long time in the enlisted ranks of Starfleet long before Miles O’Brien was born. By now, some of you have figured out that I am speaking of Yeoman Janice Rand. (According to the script of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, she was a master chief petty officer by that time)
 
So, even as far back as TOS, there were enlisted crewmen on the Enterprise that did more than die horribly before the first commercial break. That means that the next time someone tells you “But, Gene envisioned Starfleet as all officers”, you can point out that the enlisted ranks have been around as long as Star Trek has been on the air and in the theaters. Miles O’Brien was the “breakout” enlisted character, but he was not the first.
 
As a reminder, a compilation of all the History Lesson segments of my report will be available in your choice of Word document or PDF format right around the time of IC/IM. I will announce when the document is ready.
 
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.
 
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!