Eyes of a Gunnery Sergeant

Eyes of a Gunnery Sergeant

“The Gunny”

When I first went into the Marine Corps my DI was a Platoon Sergeant, he was something akin to a God, Officers were beyond that because we only saw them once or twice. Then when we went to the Rifle Range at Camp Matthews and were snapping in with our M1 rifles. I’m afraid I still had some of that softness remaining from civilian life (from just a few weeks before) and fell asleep while snapping-in in the Prone position. I was awakened by being picked up by collar and seat to a great height and dropped. I landed atop my M1, my chin hurt, my chest hurt and I believe my knees hurt somewhat also. I looked up into the flaming eyes of a Gunnery Sergeant who had to be something between a God and the Devil, if I read those eyes right and the flow of language, I felt I was near Death. He then picked me up off the ground and set me to doing Off Hand with him watching my every move. When the rifle muzzle dipped I got a whack and I got madder, another whack and I got so d-mn mad I was going to lower my rifle and slug him.

“Want to hit me, HUH, take your best shot cause then you’re going to die, Lad.”

Later when I missed Expert by a few points, he came over to me and told me if I hadn’t been sleeping while prone, I would have made Expert.

“Yes. Sir”, I said swallowing the pride I had by getting the score I did. “Keep it up, Lad. You’ll make a Marine yet. Still want to hit me?” He said smiling. I never knew his name only that Sweaty Dusty Campaign hat and the Gunny stripes on his sleeve.

The Gunnery Sergeant was created by the Marine Corps in 1898 and was the Highest Paid enlisted man, above a First Sergeant (this was corrected in about 1908 or so when the First Soldier was paid more than the Gunny, but the records about pay rates, rank status, and rank insignia are a bit fuzzy when you try to read about them. The Gunny had, in the beginning 1898, 3 chevrons, with a Busting Bomb in the center over crossed rifle and naval gun, then it went to crossed rifles. World War I seems to be the beginning of our present ranks structure. The picture shows what a Gunnery Sergeant looked like in WWI.

The Gunny was always like a God to me, there were only two ranks in the Marine Corps, Gunnery Sergeant and Marine Gunner, as I saw it during my Career. I made Gunny and Retired as a Gunnery Sergeant. (I’ve always hated that E7 bit). Back when I came in a Gunny was Grade 2, I believe, Private was Grade 7.

Making Rank was always who you were, where you were, and what you were. Electronics, and such got all the ranks. Infantry Weapons Armorer hung around and waited for someone to die o retire so they could get promoted, later I was in Research and Development for the weapons Marines used, and was the Chief Armorer for the AR15/M16 Rifle Project at Camp Lejeune.

Why did I become a Marine? The only Marine I ever knew before was the old man that owned the Duck Pin Alley in my home town who was a Retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant, Tall and he walked like he marched in the Marine Corps, always leaning a bit back. I worked there with his grandson setting pins in the bowling alley who told me that he was a Retired Marine. That was before the War and who cared.

GySgt. F. L. Rousseau, USMC Retired

Sgt Grit wants to hear from you! Leave your comments below or submit your own story!

24 comments


  • Richard M Vara Sr

    I was assigned to 2nd Amphib Recon at Camp Geiger right out of boot camp. It was just at company strength at that time.(1957). Our mission was beach landing recon, using LCNs launched from subs offshore and rowed ashore by 12 men riding the gunnels. Interesting stuff with blacked faces and hands , wearing cammies with sneaks and ka bar arms with soft covers. We conducted problems at Ft Bragg, NC with Army green barets special forces. sometimes. I was a Scout Swimmer. It was a great outfit with lots of Marine pride.


  • Fred Unsworth – SSGT 7312/7322

    I was with 1st MAW. I was an air traffic controller attached to MATCU 63. Got to go to P’Ohang, Korea twice (the first “Team Spirit”), Kwangju, Korea, and Brisbane, Australia (“Kangaroo II”). I wish I had know the historical significance of returning to P’Ohang via LST.


  • CPL JOSEPH GREEN

    Semper Fi Marine, I too returned stateside from a Westpac in 1977, did mine with BLT 1/9, who did you do your’s with? I personally did not care for the cammies, nothing like a well starched set of sateen’s.


  • Fred Unsworth – SSGT – ’70 – ’78

    As a non-combatant Staff Sergeant during/after Viet Nam I was allowed to wear a purple bird plume in my piss cutter. I was quite a spectacle. I wish I had purchased a swagger stick while authorized. And for starching cammies – they were issued when I returned stateside from Westpac in 1977. I suppose if we had the new desert boots back then I would have been spit shining them to a high gloss. Old Corps, just not really Old Corps. Had A Master Gunnery Sergeant as a boss and flight instructor who served in three wars and became an E-9 when they made the pay grade. I do love these stories.


  • Amtracker

    Humm, I never seen Carlos Hathcock wearing one. He must have lost his, him being from Arkansas.


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