I pinned on Corporal way back in 1995. It was while I was a student at the Marine Security Guard School in Quantico (pre-pepper spray). I had just come from 1st Bn 3D Marines and had a been a Lance Corporal squad leader during my time there. Being a squad leader (an NCO billet) as a Lance Corporal just may be one of the best jobs in the Marine Corps. You have all the authority and none of the responsibility.
Upon being promoted to Corporal I knew the jig was up. Now I was expected to know better and my Lance Corporal shenanigans would not hold up to scrutiny. It was a scary realization.
In late 1996 I was promoted to Sergeant. This was a big deal and considered one of the best of the enlisted ranks, the other being Gunnery Sergeant. Now I was supposed to actually know stuff. Yikes! Sergeants knew everything about the Corps. Keep in mind, other than my drill instructors, my introduction to Sergeants was none other than the Cyborg himself. I panicked as I realized I didn’t know anything!
Still trying to rationalize all of that, I was shipped off to 2D Force Service Support Group in Camp Lejuene to become a Nuclear Biological Chemical (No Body Cares) Defense Specialist. I would spend the next eight years trying to do anything but my military occupational specialty.
The day I checked in the with the NBC Platoon at HQ Battalion a young PFC approached me. Dressed in my Service Alpha uniform I no doubt cut a dashing figure (it’s one of the reasons we join after all). He began to gripe about his perceived hypocrisy of some of the platoon leadership. At a loss of what to say, I responded with the only thing I could think of: “Just shut your mouth. Do what I do and you’ll be ok.” It must have worked. That PFC is now a Marine Captain.
By the time I kind of figured out how to be a decent Sergeant I was selected for promotion to Staff Sergeant. Oh crap! Marine Staff NCOs have a level of responsibility unparalleled in the U.S. Armed Forces. They are go to Marines with the corporate knowledge of 236 years of storied tradition. Immediatly upon recieving your first rocker something magic happens where your brain automatically downloads everything a SNCO needs to know. At least this is the perception. Somehow my software never got the memo.
During this period I was given orders to 3rd Recon Battalion in Okinawa to be their NBC Chief. Many cool things happened at 3rd Recon. None of them involved nuclear, biological, or chemical warfare.
Gunnery Sergeant is probably the greatest rank in the Marine Corps. The Gunny gets things done. In 2003 I was given this mantle. Keep in mind not all Gunnery Sergeants are The Gunny either. The Lance Corporal in me shivered with fear. Gunnys are supposed to everything! They took action and produced results! I was doomed! Sooner or later someone was going to see through my disguise and realise I was a LCpl posing as a SNCO. I played my role well and eventually a Company Gunny with the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force in Indian Head, MD.
Once I was walking through the passageway with one of my Corporals on some kind of mission to make something happen when the Cpl looked at me and said: “Gunny, how come you walk around like you’re some kind of bad $&!#@*?”
The panicked LCpl in me freaked: he knows! I casually looked the Corporal up and down and said: “I’ll let you in on a secret. I kinda am a bad $&!#@*.” I continued to swagger down the hall having dodged another bullet. Whew!
In 2007 I was promoted to 1stSgt and given orders to 3/3 America’s Battalion. The Company 1stSgt is the be all and end all of things pertaining to his company. The sun rises and sets on his command. Careers blossom or fall at his whim. He knows EVERYTHING about everything! I had no idea what I was going to do. Many of the Marines I was leading were combat vets who knew more about counter insurgency operations than I ever would.
If there was one thing I had already learned in my time with the Corps it was if I took care of the troops they would take care of the mission. I also had some experience looking and acting like a professional Marine and set out to teach those in my charge how to do likewise. It also helps to go on a few patrols with the men and gain a reputation as a bullet magnet (also mortar and IED magnet).
After two combat deployments with 3/3 I have been with the Fleet Anti-terrorist Security Team Company in Bahrain for the last two years. We’ve been all over the CENTCOM AO and this past year have conducted three embassy reinforcement missions during the current unrest. My Marines have made me look pretty good with every task they’ve been given.
So, it is with some humility I announce the Marine Corps has seen fit to approve my selection to Sergeant Major. To which I can only wonder what the heck am I supposed to do now? Don’t they know who I am? I can only hope to pin on the rank before someone in authority realises they are promoting some wise assed Lance Corporal to Sergeant Major.
I suspect someone’s been tricked here and I’m not quite certain who it is yet.