Eyes of a Gunnery Sergeant

Eyes of a Gunnery Sergeant

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“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


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.

Richard M Vara Sr,

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.

Fred Unsworth – SSGT 7312/7322,

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.


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.

Fred Unsworth – SSGT – ’70 – ’78,

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




It’s called Zulu time, or Greemwich Means Time (GMT) or zero meridan. It is the universal time standard. Google “time chart” if you’d like to know more.

Top Pro USMC,

Where do these POSer’s come from??? ” POSer Bostwick” its Sergeant not Sargeant, STRIKE 1 – and if you & your buddies were shooting the M16A2 you were after my time ( 1975-1981 M16A1) still have my rifle card, there is NO WAY they were charging you for a hot dog & a glass of milk, if you were married drawing comrats you paid a set amount for the entire meal, how do I know this, I’m a Retired CPL (PDRL) 3371 & proud of it, STRIKE 2 – and lastly I do not believe for one second the CMC allowed you & the boys to wear grey confederate caps STRIKE 3. Not even close to a good BS story.


Many years ago while serving on Okinawa there was a public service video on the Armed Forces Network titled What is a Gunnery Sergeant?. It featured an older man and a young boy who asked the question. It was a heart warming video. I retired as a MGYSGT but always felt that GYSGY was my favorite rank while serving in the Corps.

George Iliffe,

Nice chart CThomas. As an amateur historian I really appreciate stuff like this. I copied it. I served 1960 -to 1966. Wound up an E-5 buck sergeant. Loved the Corps. If it hadn’t been that my old man was very sick I would have stayed in. He passed shortly after i got discharged. My Ma got Parkinson’s right at that time and without our family business she had no insurance and man, it was costly. Semper Fi to you, buzz

Buzz Alpert,

Sgt. Daniel J. Daly. Seems to me a certain Gunny named Daniel J. Daly winner of Two medals of honor would have liked like the pictured Gunny when he lead his Marines though the Bellau Woods into the German machine gun nest yelling “Come on you Son’s of Bitches do you want to live forever.” For those actions he was awarded the Navy Cross. I have a picture of Sgt. Maj. Daly as a Gunnery Sergeant with the three stripe chevron with the bursting bomb underneath. Semper Fi Marines.

Daniel J. Daly,

Isn’t all of this referring to a silly arsed Video Game? Forgive an old grunt Doc, but I think if this were spoken aloud in a Marine kind of bar, you would surely regret it, young mister Robert Bostwick. Take your childishness elsewhere.

John Patrick,


Pete Pitcher,

I don’t think that’s the way my Marine Corps works

John Stone ’69 E-3,

I made Gunnery Sargeant, towards the end of Sniper school. A year before Sniper school, I was on the rifle range, when one of the other Marines, challenged everyone on the range to a shoot out, the one to get all five shots in the black first would win $20 bucks. We said sure we’re in, main reason was because, they just started charging us for our chow, at the chow hall. It may seem kind of cheap, hotdogs are $.10 each and a glass of milk was $.05 each. But when you have to pay for your own drycleaning of your dress uniforms and starching of your cammies, it can be expensive. Anyway, back to the range. We were all given 5 rounds, for our m16a2 rifle. You only get one round to find black, then the last four in the black. Most of us take care of our own rifles, making sure everything is in excellent working order. Most of us shot very well, I myself and others made dead center, no bigger than a silver dollar. A Gunnery Sargeant was watching us while watching his own Marines. He was impressed, that so many could shoot the same way with precision timing, he asked who was in charge, we all looked around, and then I raised my hand and said I am Gunny. He said that was the best shooting, I’ve ever seen, and asked us if we ever thought of going to Sniper school, of course we said no, because we thought that Sniper school was fot the Elite, not for regular Marines, like ourselves. But the Gunny said no, anyone can tryout for the school, not all will make it. Out of the thirty of us, we tried out and including myself, five of us made it through. The instructor of the school, mentioned to me that the five if us should make a squad together, so that nobody will break us up. We wore all black, except for our Gray Confederate Caps, that I later requested from the “Commandant of the Marine Corps” to become part of our uniform, which after a while, he accepted my request. That’s how the 13 REB’L’s Force Recon Sniper, came to be.

Robert Bostwick,

Gunny Sergeants in the “Corps” are the heart and soul of every Marine ever made in “Boot Camp” and the key to our survival when we go into harms way. Though their are Officers in Command, it’s the Gunny who makes everything needing to be done accomplished. Thank You, Sgt. Robert W. Gonzales K 3/4 1966-67 RVN

Robert W, W. Gonzales,

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