State of the NCO Corps February 2014
You may recall that in our last VERY exciting episode, we were in the booth in the back in the corner in the dark of my local NCO club, where Groundhog Flambe is a pretty popular dish right about now, and the odds are pretty good that few Marines other than Top and the Dant will get the reference in the opening of this paragraph. (Your favorite search engine probably won‘t help.)
If you’re a part of the Eleventh Brigade, I hope you’ve been enjoying your summer. For almost all of the rest of us, well, if I said what I was thinking right now about the weather, it wouldn’t be fit to print. We all have different perceptions of what “cold and nasty” means when it comes to weather, and we’ve probably all seen that definition met or exceeded several times this winter already. So, perhaps the most important “community service” we can give at times like these is simply taking care of ourselves, and doing what we can to help others suffering from Mother Nature’s sense of humor. In the end, that’s really what community service is about: lending your time and energy to help someone else.
I’ll take time now to remind you of what has been a personal cause of mine over the past 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.
As you may be aware, I’m also associated with another cause I’d like to bring to your attention: the March for the Disabled campaign. I covered it in more depth in another post, but the short form is that, during March 2014, all STARFLEET Marines are being asked to turn their energy towards projects that assist directly or raise awareness for those with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. This can be in support of some recognized charity, or simply assisting someone in your own community. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.
Remember that while the SFMC is very happy to recognize the efforts of its members in areas such as community service, that Omniscience Module that “Eight Ball Command” (SFMC R&D) has been promising is “just around the corner” for years now still isn’t ready to be deployed. That means you need to make sure whoever in your unit is writing the reports gets the information on what you’ve been doing, and sends it up the Chain of Command for action. While in my experience, a good unit OIC keeps their ear to the ground as much as possible, they can’t report what they don’t know about. Keeping folks in the loop starts with each and every one of us. Over the past several years, I think I’ve been clear on what I think of assuming the Other Guy will get something done. (Hint: it’s not exactly positive or complimentary.)
If you’ve been paying any sort of attention over the past several months to this report, you’ll know that the amount of “burnout” the SFMC has been experiencing, especially in the ranks of senior enlisted members, is one of my biggest concerns going forward. The NCO Corps has been traditionally charged with leading the way in the matter of Recruiting and Retention, and I am specifically charged with helping the NCO Corps grow and remain strong. Recently, I had a long chat with the Commandant about this subject, and I shared my thoughts with him. Now, what I’d like to be able to do is share YOUR thoughts as well. What can STARFLEET and the SFMC do differently to encourage and support those members who have made the personal decision to remain in the enlisted ranks? Please contact me privately with your ideas through any of the accustomed communications channels.
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. If you look in the Marine Force Manual (MFM2012 Section 6.2 – Page 31) you’ll find a list of “Garrison” (planetary surface) duty assignments a member of the fictional Starfleet Marine Corps might be assigned. About halfway down that list, you’ll find “Embassy Duty”, which is described as: “ Marines serve as a visible representation of Federation military commitment and potential by serving at any of the many Federation embassies throughout the quadrant. Site security, courier duty, and protocol functions are common duties during this assignment.” Sounds like a nice job, if you can get it, doesn’t it? Of course, here in the 21st Century, we can all probably think of many instances of Marines assigned to “Embassy Duty” that had the proverbial Sierra hit the fan, often with tragic results.
But, you may not know that it’s not exactly a new phenomenon. In the summer of 1900, a relative handful of troops, including US Marines, fought a desperate battle to defend the foreign embassies in Peking (Beijing) China against an overwhelming force that included members of a anti-foreigner, anti-Christian organization known as the Righteous Harmony Society (called “Boxers” in the Western world, due to the martial arts they practiced) and the Qing Dynasty’s regular army. 409 professional soldiers, along with 473 civilians, and some 3000 Chinese Christians fleeing from the Boxer fanatics managed to hold out for 55 days until a relief force from the “Eight Nation Alliance” consisting of Japan, Russia, Great Britain, the United States, France, Italy, Germany, and Austria-Hungary, managed to fight their way into Peking and rescue them.
The defense of the legations was carried out by an international force as well. In fact, their sole piece of artillery, an old muzzle loading cannon, was known as the “International Gun”, because its barrel was British, the gun carriage was Italian, the shells were Russian, and the gun crew was American. Of the legation guards, about 40 percent were killed or wounded during the siege, but they managed to hold out. Of the US Marines involved in the defense of the legations, over 20 of them earned Medals of Honor during those 55 days. One of those so honored was a Private you may have heard me speak of before: Daniel Joseph Daly, who went on to win an almost unprecedented second Medal of Honor later, and became perhaps the standard against which all Marine NCOs of any nation or era measure themselves. Another private became the first US Marine to have the Medal of Honor awarded posthumously. Private Harry Fisher was killed in action on July 16, 1900, manning the barricades against the Boxers and the Chinese army. The citation notes Fisher “reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country”. There was only one small problem. Technically, Private Harry Fisher never existed.
His real name was Franklin J. Phillips. He had served in the US Army during the Spanish American War, and contracted malaria. The Army refused to give him sick leave, so he deserted, and was given a dishonorable discharge when he requested a return to duty. Two months later, he enlisted in the Marines as “Harry Fisher”, and served honorably until his death.
All of this came out after the Medal of Honor had been awarded to “Harry Fisher”. His mother, Mrs. W.C. Means wrote to the Commandant of the USMC, requesting the records be changed to reflect her son’s true name. The request was refused on the grounds that “no change can be made in a man’s record after his death”. However, at the official ceremony in August of 1901, Mrs. Means was allowed to accept the medal “on behalf of Harry Fisher.”
Officially, the name “Harry Fisher” remained on record for decades. In 1985, the M.V. Harry Fisher entered the Military Sealift Command, named in his honor. But, finally, in 1988, the case was reviewed again, and by order of the Commandant of the USMC, “Harry Fisher” was removed from all official records, and Franklin J. Phillips was given his proper place in Marine history … and, yes, they renamed the ship as well.
In service and in friendship,
MGSGT Jerome A. “ Gunny Hawk” Stoddard
Sergeant Major of the STARFLEET Marines