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!


  • Daniel J. Daly

    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.

  • John Patrick

    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.

  • Pete Pitcher


  • John Stone ’69 E-3

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

  • Robert Bostwick

    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.

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