SMMC HomeHistory
Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps

 

Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps

Headquarters Marine Corps

History of the Rank

The Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps is selected by the Commandant of the Marine Corps to serve as his advisor and as the preeminent and highest ranking enlisted Marine with a protocol equivalency of a three-star general officer.

The Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps typically serves a four-year term, though his service is at the discretion of the Commandant of the Marine Corps.

'Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps' is the full wording of the rank, but the verbal address is Sergeant Major.

----------

Although not officially considered a Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Archibald Sommers was appointed to the grade of Sergeant Major on January 1, 1801. It was a solitary post, similar to the modern billet of Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps.

In 1833, an act of legislation made the rank of sergeant major permanent for the Marine Corps. By 1899, five Marines held the rank of sergeant major. The rank was abolished in 1946 and re-introduced in 1954 as part of the Marine Corps rank structure.

The post of Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps was established in 1957 as the senior enlisted advisor to the Commandant of the Marine Corps. It was the first such post in any of the five branches of the United States Armed Forces. The first official Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps was Sergeant Major Wilbur Bestwick.

In 1970, the distinctive rank insignia of the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps was authorized. It features the Eagle, Globe and Anchor flanked by two five-point stars, as opposed to the standard Sergeant Major rank insignia, which has a single five-point star in the center.

 

Find previous Sergeants Major photos at Defense Visual Information.

Previous SMMC
Harold G. Overstreet 12th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps
SHARE

Sergeant Major Harold G. Overstreet assumed the post as 12th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps on 28 June 1991.

Sergeant Major Overstreet was born December 1944 in Houston, Texas. He entered the Marine Corps in June 1966 and completed recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, California, followed by Basic Infantry Training School at Camp Pendleton, California.

Upon completion of school, he reported to Staging Battalion at Camp Pendleton, for further assignment to the 1st Military Police Battalion, 3d Marine Division, Republic of Vietnam. Returning to the states, he was reassigned to the Infantry Training Regiment at Camp Pendleton.

Sergeant Major Overstreet subsequently completed successful tours on the Inspector-Instructor staff, Wichita, Kansas; recruiting duty in Des Moines, Iowa, and Detroit, Michigan; and returning to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, as a junior drill instructor, senior drill instructor, Series Gunnery Sergeant and Chief Instructor, Reassigned to Drill Instructor School, he was an Instructor, Drill Master, and Chief Instructor.

After completing First Sergeant School, he was assigned to Special Projects at Drill Instructor School, where he undertook the enormous task of completely transferring the Drill Manual onto video tape for a more optimal use during instructional periods. His promotion to first sergeant in February 1979 led to his second assignment on Okinawa as the First Sergeant, Headquarters and Service Co. 8th Engineer Battalion.

Upon his return from overseas, he was the First Sergeant of both Company B and C, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California.

Promoted to his present rank in October 1983, Sergeant Major Overstreet became the Inspector Sergeant Major, MCAGCC, Twentynine Palms. Returning to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, he served as a Battalion and Regimental Sergeant Major in the Recruit Training Regiment. Transferring to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, he served as the 6th Marines Sergeant Major. This assignment was followed by duty as Regimental Sergeant Major, 12th Marines, Okinawa.

On 6 April 1990, Sergeant Major Overstreet was posted as Depot Sergeant Major at San Diego. He was selected as the 12th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps in April 1991, and assumed the post on 28 June 1991.

Sergeant Major Overstreet's personal decorations include: the Meritorious Service Medal; Navy Commendation Medal; Navy Achievement Medal; and the Combat Action Ribbon.

SHARE