STATE OF THE NCO CORPS (February 2015)


State of the NCO Corps February 2015

Greetings Marines!

Please join me in the booth in the back in the corner in the dark of my local NCO club, where the contents of the coffee urn may or may not be covered by a Starfleet Medical research grant and the Special of the Day (Military Grade Chili) sort of barely skates past several interstellar weapons treaties.

The SFMC suffered another loss recently with the passing of Major General Norman DeRoux, who had been the 5th Brigade’s OIC for over a decade before stepping up to serve all as RC of Region 5, inspiring many members of STARFLEET with his leadership and professionalism. He was very keen on encouraging Marines who had made the decision to remain in the Enlisted ranks to succeed and prosper, including one slightly creak and sometimes cranky Senior NCO that he urged to apply for the post of Sergeant Major of the STARFLEET Marines many years ago. I wasn’t sure I could handle the job, but Norm had no doubts in the matter. He was often the first to jump in to assist with projects started by the office of SGM SFMC, as when I mentioned offhand that I wanted to compile some real data on just how many enlisted members the SFMC had. His response was, on his own imitative, to begin breaking out the numbers of enlisted Marines in his official Brigade OIC reports and making sure I got a copy. That jump-started a long period of data collection, with the result that the General Staff now has a better idea of just what percentage of our members are affected by any decisions specific to those who have chosen to remain “in the ranks”.

When the SFMC agreed to distance itself from trademarks of the USMC, you may have noticed that my “sign off” for this report changed to comply. It didn’t take long for me to decide I would like to use the same line I had seen at the bottom of every email I had ever received from Norm over the years, and I asked his permission to borrow it as my own. “In service and in friendship” pretty much sums up Norm DeRoux.

All this is by way of reminding you of something I have said before: the dimming of fictional running lights of fictional starships, or the lowering of fictional flags to half staff to mark the passing of one of our own is a Good Thing, but as a real memorial, please consider putting in a little time on one of the community service projects that they will no longer be able to assist. (For Norm, that would be “just about anything you can find that needs doing to lend someone in need a hand”.) I’m sure that, somehow, they’d be grateful that their good works did not end with them.

Norm would have been one of the first to point out that community service doesn’t have to be any part of any organized charity effort. Just giving of your time and energy to someone who needs a hand is the spirit of community service. But also 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. “If you don’t report it, we can’t reward it.”

Having said all of that regarding community service, I probably should also add something I’ve said before: Don’t get so caught up in duties and projects that it’s not fun any more. ( I checked again … “SFMC” is STILL not an abbreviation for “STARFLEET Martyr Collective“.) Part of the duties of an SFMC NCO is recruiting and retention, and it’s a lot easier to get folks to join, and more importantly, stick around over the long haul if you’re having fun. If you need a break, just let your chain of command know that you may be unavailable for a while and have a little FUN. (Judging by some of the images I’ve seen that leaked out from various Brigade musters, despite the efforts of those caught on camera to suppress them, I’d say SFMC members are more than capable of having fun when they put their minds to it.)

Meanwhile, it’s been a while since I reminded you all (with my tongue mostly in cheek) … Marines … every time you ask a question whose answer is clearly in The Book, or answer a question without looking in The Book to be sure you’re right, some reasonably omnipotent being somewhere in the universe takes a completely innocent little adorable puppy, fluffy bunny, or playful kitten, or their alien equivalent, and cruelly promotes them to “butter bar“. Please, Marines … think of the puppies, bunnies, and kittens (and alien equivalents)! Check the current Marine Force Manual (MFM) FIRST …

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. Napoleon is quoted as saying “An army marches on its stomach”, and in August of 1941, the responsibility for the stomachs of part of the Soviet 91st Tank Regiment rested in the hands of a young Ukrainian named Ivan Pavlovitch Sereda. Sereda, a graduate of the Donetsk Cooking School, was alone in camp when one of the mostly wildly improbable series of events I may have ever heard of occurred.

Somehow, a lone enemy Panzer IV tank had slipped behind the lines, and came rumbling into the tents. Sereda did the sensible thing when confronted with over 20 metric tons of armored monster – he ran behind his cook tent to hide. And then the weird kicked in.

Smelling the food Sereda had been preparing for lunch for his troops, the enemy crew popped their hatches and all five of them decided to get out and take advantage of the opportunity for a quick hot meal in the apparently deserted camp. Nobody can say for sure what went through Sereda’s head at this, but he grabbed the axe he used for chopping firewood, and charged the dismounted enemy tankers. Their reaction to an axe wielding maniac in a chef’s apron was fairly predictable: scramble back into their ride, and slam the hatches shut. But, by this time, Sereda didn’t care … he climbed up onto the Panzer IV and began beating on the thick armor with his trusty wood chopper. In the process, he managed to bend the barrel of the coaxial machinegun in the turret, rendering the only weapon the tank had that could possibly be brought to bear on him useless.

The vehicle commander opened a viewport, and tried to use his pistol on the crazy cook, but a chef’s apron quickly tossed over the opening ended that plan, and nobody in that crew felt like trying to go outside and perhaps be chopped into kindling. Then Sereda, who spoke some German, yelled that he had some anti-tank grenades with him, and called on the Germans to surrender or face a horrible, fiery death. When the tankers of the 91st rolled back into camp for a meal, they found their cook standing guard over five prisoners (and a slightly beat-up Panzer IV).

Sereda survived the war, and was rewarded for his actions with being named “Hero of the Soviet Union”, his country’s highest honor. History is silent on whether or not he was a GOOD cook, but I have a sneaking suspicion that even if he wasn’t, none of the soldiers he cooked for ever complained, especially if there was an axe anywhere nearby.

In service and in friendship,

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