State of the NCO Corps January 2014
Let’s take five in the booth in the back in the corner in the dark of my local NCO club, where the HAZMAT and EOD teams have finally finished cleaning up after the New Year’s Eve party, and a lot of New Year’s Resolutions begin with “So help me, if I am ever tempted to do that again, somebody do me a BIG favor and hit me with a phaser on heavy stun … or a chair leg, whichever is handier.”
As I begin my service as Sergeant Major of the STARFLEET Marines under GEN McGowan, I suppose I should make the usual staff announcements. As has been true in the past, my staff pretty much consists of Staff Sergeant Bear, my beloved and patient dog. I have been asked why Bear is not at least a Gunnery Sergeant by now, given his long time in service and the hazardous duty of putting up with me every day, and the answer is simple: every promotion since E-4 that he has been given by my chapter has come after an encounter with the Polecat Liberation Front (Skunks), and frankly, we’d BOTH rather he didn’t have another one any time soon. Now that that’s out of the way, as I promised last month, let’s look at some of my goals for this office going forward.
If you were paying careful attention to my past few missives, you may have noticed my concern with “burnout” in general in the SFMC. I consider this to be one of the biggest problems facing the organization as a whole, and it comes into sharp focus in the NCO Corps, since we already have a smaller pool of talent to draw on (roughly 20-25 percent of the entire SFMC). So, how do we deal with it? One simple solution is “Recruit more STARFLEET Marines and encourage more of them to stay enlisted.” That will tend to be an ongoing, long term solution. In the short term, since SFMC NCOs have traditionally been charged with taking a lead in “recruiting and retention”, I’ll remind you again that “retention” may be the area we need to concentrate most on. It’s up to all of us to make the SFMC interesting, rewarding, and most of all, FUN for all of our members.
Another traditional responsibility of SFMC NCOs is taking a lead in community service activities. This year, the STARFLEET Marines will once again be including the March for The Disabled as part of the annual Commandant’s Campaign Award. In the month of March, 2014, members of the SFMC are asked to turn their creativity and energy towards projects that assist directly or raise awareness for those with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. This month long campaign is deliberately left very open-ended as far as what constitutes “participation”. Like all SFMC community service, this need not be part of any organized charity or program. What matters most is putting in your time and effort for your chosen cause. The March campaign was left deliberately vague and broad in scope in part to allow even those Marines who live in small communities a chance to participate. If you look around, no matter how small the community you live in is, odds are you can find a way to make a difference.
Staying on the topic of community service, after shoveling out my doorway too darn many times this winter, I‘ve been very grateful for warm clothes, and that leads to something I’ve been endorsing for a few years, namely seeing what you can do in your own community about helping out those who may need warmer clothing right about now. It’s often not just a matter of being more comfortable, it could literally help someone survive. Remember HUGS: Hats, Underwear, Gloves, Socks. These are often in short supply, and sorely needed.
Whatever you do in the way of community service, make sure that whoever is filing the report for your unit knows the details, and sends it up the Chain of Command in their official report so you can be given the recognition your efforts deserve.
As always, the SFMC General Staff needs your input and ideas in order to properly do our jobs. Don’t hesitate to contact the appropriate GS member with your questions, comments and ideas. You can find all the email addresses at the SFMC website, and, of course, we monitor the Corps-l list, and the SFMC Facebook group.
Now it’s time for Top’s History Lesson. In 1954, the Saturday Evening Post ran a story that introduced America to a remarkable US Marine sergeant. How remarkable? Well for starters, this USMC NCO had compiled an impressive combat record, being wounded twice while hauling ammunition up to the front lines and hauling wounded soldiers back, navigating barbed wire in the dark, and participating in an amphibious landing, but never personally fired a single shot at the enemy. This Marine had received two battlefield promotions- first to Corporal and then to Sergeant – for coolness under fire, and was a well known and popular member of the First Marine Division, with a wide reputation as a “character” who would eat almost anything (including $30 worth of poker chips on one occasion) and enjoyed a beer with fellow Marines. The sergeant was, against all odds for that time, FEMALE, and fairly short, but she weighed in at a muscular 900 pounds (NOT a typo), and was simply known as “Reckless”.
Sergeant Reckless was a mare of Mongolian pony ancestry purchased at a Korean racetrack by LT Eric Pedersen for $250. Pedersen’s recoilless rifle unit needed a way to get the heavy ammunition for their weapons across rough terrain and he had received permission to buy a horse. The little (less than 14 hands – barely above pony size ) blaze faced chestnut’s owner wasn’t eager to part with her, but he wanted the money to buy a prosthetic leg for his sister, who had stepped on a landmine, so a deal was struck, and a legend was born.
The first time one of the 57 mm recoilless rifles she carried ammunition for went off next to her, she was obviously startled, but, like a good Marine, she simply stood her ground. She was, by all reports, very intelligent- needing only at most a few supervised trips to the firing positions from the supply area, and then ready, willing, and able to work her way there and back unassisted. In late March of 1953, during the battle of Vegas Hill, Reckless made 51 trips in a single day to the front, and carried 386 recoilless rounds (over 9000 pounds), and continued carrying ammunition despite being lightly wounded twice. For her actions that day, she was given a formal promotion to Corporal.
But perhaps her greatest contribution to the Marines was simply in the area of morale. She had the run of the camp, and would wander around, freely entering tents (and sometimes sleeping next to the stove on a cold night). She was noted for eating a wide variety of things, including bacon and eggs, candy bars, cola, beer, and the hats of people who she thought were ignoring her. I’ll let Randolph Pate, who commanded the First Marine Division, and later became Commandant of the USMC sum up her personality:
“I was surprised at her beauty and intelligence, and believe it or not, her esprit de corps. Like any other Marine, she was enjoying a bottle of beer with her comrades. She was constantly the center of attraction and was fully aware of her importance. If she failed to receive the attention she felt her due, she would deliberately walk into a group of Marines and, in effect, enter the conversation. It was obvious the Marines loved her.”
In 1954, while still in Korea, Pate promoted Reckless to Sergeant, and the Marines gave her a red blanket with her name and rank, and eventually the decorations she’d earned, which included two Purple Hearts, a Good Conduct Medal, and the Presidential Unit Citation. The Marines did battle with government red tape, and when her unit rotated back to the USA, Reckless came along. She appeared on television, and was a guest at the Marine Corps birthday ball (where she sampled not only the cake but the flowers). In 1959, by order of the Commandant of the USMC, Reckless was duly promoted to Staff Sergeant, and in 1960, she was officially retired, and given free room and board at Camp Pendleton in lieu of retirement pay. She eventually had three sons (one of them named “Chesty“), and died after sustaining an injury in 1968. She was estimated to be 19 or 20 years old at the time of her death – a grand old lady.
In 1997, Life magazine included her in its list of 100 all time American heroes, and in July of 2013, a statue of Reckless, carrying ammunition for her Marines, was unveiled in Semper Fidelis Memorial Park at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. There is a lock of her tail hair in the base of the statue.
STARFLEET Marine NCOs might be well advised to look to her as an example of not only “Service Before Self” and “Excellence in Everything We Do”, but also of the importance of simply being able to have a good time with your fellow Marines.
In service and in friendship,
MGSGT Jerome A. “ Gunny Hawk” Stoddard
Sergeant Major of the STARFLEET Marines