SMMC: "Baby NCOs" story an insult to junior Marines

28 Jan 2008 | Sgt. Maj. Carlton W. Kent

“I am an NCO dedicated to training new Marines and influencing the old. I am forever conscious of each Marine under my charge, and by example will inspire him to the highest standards possible. I will strive to be patient, understanding, just, and firm. I will commend the deserving and encourage the wayward.

 I will never forget that I am responsible to my Commanding Officer for the morale, discipline, and efficiency of my men. Their performance will reflect an image of me.”

 (Noncommissioned Officers Creed, Headquarters Marine Corps Promotions Branch)

 I can remember the day I got promoted to NCO like it was yesterday. Pinning on that extra stripe didn’t just mean extra pay or privileges, it meant I’d achieved a rank that is not taken lightly and is highly respected by all throughout the Marine Corps. That promotion will always be one of the proudest moments in my career.

 I have no doubt that getting promoted to NCO is as momentous an occasion for junior Marines nowadays as it was for me back when I got promoted. It was for that reason alone that I felt just as insulted as all of the NCOs around the Corps when I read the “Baby NCOs” story in the Marine Corps Times a couple months ago.

 Regardless of the story subject, there will never be a time and a place that the words “baby NCO” could be used to accurately describe junior Marines – never!

 Getting promoted to any rank in the Marine Corps is an accomplishment and to insinuate that the Corps’ new batch of NCOs is going to be any less deserving than their predecessors is absurd. If anything, Marines of this day and age are just as combat hardened and have as great a responsibility as their predecessors.

 Undeniably the Marine Corps Times supported its story with a memo from the Center for Naval Analyses, but even the analysis didn’t show the reader the complete Marine.

 About half of the Marine Corps is made up of Marines in the ranks of private through corporal; nearly 70,000 Marines are ages 21 and below. It’s these young, junior Marines – through the mentorship of the Corps’ great staff noncommissioned officers – who will be carving out the future of the Marine Corps for all to follow.

 As the senior enlisted Marine in the Corps, I have witnessed the great things the Corps’ small-unit leaders are doing both on and off the battlefield.

 I have seen Marine NCOs serving in combat in billets one, two, even three ranks higher than their rank dictates – and in some cases, officer billets. I’ve witnessed junior Marines barely old enough to vote and definitely not old enough to drink, make split-second decisions on the battlefield that saved the lives of many of their fellow Marines.

 I’ve read countless award summaries describing heroic acts by Marines wearing the very rank the Marine Corps Times insulted.

 I’ve seen severely wounded Marines more concerned with not letting their fellow Marines down by leaving the battlefield, than they were with receiving life-saving medical treatment. I’ve visited numerous hospitals where Marine NCOs struggled to rehabilitate themselves in order to simply walk 10 feet after surviving an IED blast in Iraq.

 And sadly enough, I’ve said a silent prayer for the more than 300 Marine NCOs who have given their lives during Operations Iraqi/Enduring Freedom.

 I’m confident that in five, 10 or 15 years, it will be Medal of Honor recipient Cpl. Jason Dunham or the more than 30 junior Marines who have received either the Navy Cross or Silver Star who will grace the pages of Marine Corps history books. These are the kinds of Marines that are going to be filling the future ranks of the Marine Corps, regardless of what some reporter wants to imply.

 So when I read a story that mentions anything but praise for the thousands of Marine NCOs around the globe, I feel it is my duty to speak out – it is the right thing to do. I will never sit idle and let anyone speak negatively about the Marines serving in the Corps.

 The Corps is extremely proud of the Marines serving today and I’m especially proud of the junior Marines who, as I once did, strive to achieve the rank of NCO – one of the best ranks in the Marine Corps. I trust that when promoted, each new NCO will take the NCO Creed to heart and will never let the Corps down.

Headquarters Marine Corps