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


  • Robert W, W. Gonzales

    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


  • Murray Hermanson

    I saw that along time ago, they are 6hrs or so ahead of us in time. That puts them over seas some where for their time zone, you never know who is really running things.


  • GySgt P. Santiago

    Gunny Rousseau, I also came in at Pay Grade 7. I tell young Marines today I enlisted at Grade 7 and retired at Grade 7. The confused look on their faces is not to be missed.


  • CThomas

    Get out your swagger stick and give’m a whack.


  • Dan Poore. Sgt. USMC 72-76

    Great history lesson about our Corps. Thanks for sharing this.


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