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State of the NCO Corps, April 2012
State of the NCO Corps April 8, 2012

Greetings Marines!

I will start off by confessing a certain temptation to file my monthly report on April 1, and have it consist in its entirety of: “YEP, we have a bunch of ‘em and they are doing lots of stuff. “ But I shook that impulse off, and headed for in the booth in the back in the corner in the dark of my local NCO club, where no matter what season it is, we can be fairly sure that somewhere, somehow, Prigal is fouling something up, and new members bribing the bartender for a wee taste of my Private Reserve Stock behind the bar are always disappointed when they find out what ir really is. (Feel free to speculate.)

As you may know, for the past year, I have been tracking the percentage of enlisted members in a sizable sample of 5 brigades. Over that time, the total percentage of enlisted Marines in the sample has grown from 26.95 to 31.82 percent, an overall increase of roughly 5 percentage points. As a caution, this may simply reflect the  growth in the SFMC over the past year, since the overall sample also increased by roughly 5 percent in that time. Still, the data continues to support a working estimate of one Marine in four holding an enlisted rank

In the month of March, I encouraged all members of the SFMC to join in a special campaign called March for the Disabled, and find a way somehow to help those who suffer from physical, mental, or emotional disabilities, or raise awareness of their needs. This campaign hit very close to home for many of our members who are disabled in some way themselves, or who have someone close to them suffering from a disability. I put my money where my mouth is on this one, and in spite of my remote location and my own disability, managed to put in a few hours last month.

I will be going over the next batch of BDE reports, and hope to get you some more information on what your fellow Marines did down the line, but , for the record, I am now declaring this campaign a rousing success in terms of meetings its goals based on one email I received on March 31.2012.

In that email, I learned that a very small unit (one Marine) in a very small BDE (less than 20 members) had spent time helping a someone with disabilities with some simple chores around the place that were difficult for that disabled person to do., and made a difference in their life. In fact, that person is seriously considering joining STARFLEET as a member of that Marine’s chapter. In the grand scheme of things, that may not seem like all that much, but when I proposed this campaign to the Dant, my goal was very simple: if just one person out there had their life improved by this project, any effort I put into it would have been time well spent

Remember, community service need not be some large scale effort. At its simplest, it is all about one person helping another. 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.

To that end, I would like to extend my thanks to LTC John Balzen of the 440th MSG for sharing the story of his efforts with me. Bravo Zulu (Well Done), SIR!

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.

Speaking of Facebook, thanks to the efforts of some hard working Marines, there is now a private Facebook group for senior NCOs (E-7 and above). If you qualify, contact SGM Mark Polanis (or me) on Facebook to be added to the group. This past month, a question arose as to whether we would be taking in SFMC Warrant Officers as well. The MFM is very clear that WOs are enlisted personnel, but the question remained as to whether they were classed as senior NCOs. Although I am the senior (in more ways than one) member of that group, I didn’t want it to be simply my call, and so I called for a vote of the current members. I am happy to announce that, by an overwhelming majority, the senior NCOs present decided that WOs belonged with them, and that as far as they were concerned, WOs are senior NCOs.

To me, this was an excellent example of the NCO Chain of Support (CoS) in action to help make a decision. But when I thought about it more, I am not so sure that “Chain” really describes the system used by SFMC NCOs. Rather than a linear relationship, the CoS consists of the individual NCO linked to several other NCOs, forming a solid and unified whole, It that respect, it is more like a suit of chainmail armor than a simple chain. Like that armor, the whole is much stronger than any individual link, but every link is important to keep the whole thing from unraveling. Please, do what you can to establish and maintain contact with other SFMC NCOs.

Now, it’s time for Top’s History Lesson.  When Marines hit the range, there is often a lot of friendly competition going on as to who can make the best shot in terms of speed, accuracy, and degree of difficulty. But ask any knowledgeable Marine out there what shot they haven’t got a prayer of matching, and odds are they will point to one famous round fired by a legendary Marine NCO: GSGT Carlos Hathcock.

You could write a book about the man the enemy called “Long Trang” (White Feather) after the trademark he kept tucked in the band of his boonie hat, and many people have. (And I urge you to find them and read them) He set a record for a long distance combat shot that stood until 2002 (2.286 yards), and at one time the enemy placed a staggering bounty on him of $30,000, which led to many Marines in his area donning their own white feathers to confuse the whole platoon of snipers sent after him, But, let us focus on what is sometimes simply known as The Shot.

Hathcock and his spotter were stalking an enemy sniper when he saw a flash of light- a reflection off the enemy’s scope – and fired at it. The round went straight down the scope and killed the enemy sniper. The only way that would have happened is if he had been aiming at Hathcock. It was, in Hathcock’s own words, “a one in a million shot”, Both men could have easily killed each other, but Hathcock’s split second decision and ability to quickly line up and fire one shot that was, due to a combination of luck and his own incredible marksmanship, right on target left him standing, and left future Marines with a legend.

Over the years, many people (notably the program Mythbusters) have attempted to duplicate that famous shot, using carefully aligned period rifles and scopes clamped securely to bench rests. After many failures, they finally succeeded in doing what Hatchcock did in seconds that day near Hill 55 under combat conditions, which makes The Shot all the more remarkable.

It must be noted that Hathcock earned a Silver Star not by virtue of his unquestioned abilities in combat, but rather from his selfless act of rescuing several fellow Marines from a burning vehicle that had struck an enemy mine despite being badly burned himself in the explosion.

The way I see it, “Service before Self”, “Excellence in everything we do”, and “Gunny Hathcock” are words that belong together.

Semper Fi!

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