Saturday, August 25, 2018

Master Gunnery Sergeant vs Sergeant Major

      The Marine Corps has two senior enlisted career paths, each with their own unique duties and privileges.  There's often confusion on the part of outsiders about how that rank structure works, who is senior, and what these ranks mean.  There is also some bit of rivalry between the ranks, which is usually good spirited.  Here's a little explanation, and a little opinion as well.

     When an enlisted Marine is promoted to the rank of Gunnery Sergeant (GySgt), they must then choose which path to follow, by selecting either "F," or "M," on their fitness report, which stand for First Sergeant (1stSgt) and Master Sergeant (MSgt), respectively.  When that GySgt is eligible for their next promotion, they'll be considered for the next rank based upon that F or M.  If they put F on their fitness report and fail to get selected for 1stSgt, they will be considered for MSgt, if eligible (time in grade requirements differ for different jobs/MOS).  That scenario isn't as common as you'd think, since the time in grade requirements for MSgt are usually greater than those for 1stSgt.  In other words, if you put F on your fitness report, you'll typically get looked at for promotion sooner, but not always. 

     Once promoted to 1stSgt, a Marine is given the MOS designation of 8999.  If promoted to MSgt, a Marine remains in their original career field.  Upon promotion, both are now on a path that cannot be changed.  1stSgts will be considered for promotion to Sergeant Major (SgtMaj), and MSgts will be considered for promotion to Master Gunnery Sergeant (MGySgt).  What's the difference, you ask? 

     1stSgts and Sergeants Major (yes, that's how you state the plural) are mostly administrative jobs, and they serve as the direct enlisted advisor to their respective commanders, with 1stSgts at the company level, and SgtsMaj at the battalion or higher level.  MSgts and MGySgts remain in their MOS fields as technical experts and senior enlisted advisors.  Occasionally, MSgts and MGySgts will temporarily fill a 1stSgt or SgtMaj billet (job), but you'll never see an 8999 filling a MSgt or MGySgt billet; they just don't have the technical expertise to do it. 

     Which rank is senior?  Neither, technically; both SgtMaj and MGySgt are at the E9 paygrade.  Niether is "in charge" of the other.  The biggest difference is that the SgtMaj believes that he/she is senior in rank, because they work directly for the commander.  In reality, the MGySgt is usually in charge of more equipment and personnel than the SgtMaj; SgtsMaj typically have a clerk or two in their charge, and they routinely harangue their company 1stSgts. 

     How do their duties differ?  Here's another area where it gets contentious.  8999s are advisors to their commanders on troop issues and administrative matters.  They also have the pleasure of dealing with all unit punishment issues, so they get to deal with the dregs of the unit on a routine basis.  MSgts and MGySgts work as equipment or technical experts, members of a commander's or general officer's staff, and other key leadership billets.  Many Marines jokingly claim that the 8999 probably spends all his/her time at the PX, chewing out Marines for uniform violations or poor haircuts.  In fact, I recently received an email from a SgtMaj, complaining about Marines being at the PX and gym during working hours...coming from the guy that was at the PX and gym during working hours.  You do the math. 

     There are other differences, and a few stereotypes.  Here's the stereotype about 8999s:  They're dumb, self-important, and weren't worth a damn at their original MOS, so they had to go the 1stSgt route.  Here's the stereotype of MSgts and MGySgts:  They know everything, they're really old, they're fat, they drink heavily, and they hate all 8999s.  There's some truth to both, but the shoe doesn't fit all.

     Most 8999s are great Americans, but they can typically be categorized by the reasons that they chose that MOS path.  If they chose it for the right reasons, they usually end up being great Marine leaders.  If they chose for the wrong reasons, they often end up being worthless jerks.  If they spent more time out of their original MOS than in it (multiple tours as a Drill Instructor, or other special duty assignments), and know that they are less competitive for promotion within their MOS, many Marines will put F on their fitness reports; that's the wrong reason to go that route.  If their original MOS promotes very slowly, and they know that putting F on their fitrep will get them promoted sooner, many Marines do so; that's also a poor reason.  Most of us view the 8999 MOS as a miserable, thankless job; many Marines find that out the hard way when they put F on their fitreps for the wrong reasons.  You've got to want to do that job. 

     The Corps needs great Sergeants Major, just as much as it needs great Master Gunnery Sergeants.  I just hope that more future leaders will choose their path for the right reasons.  Here's a funny article about the subject (click here).

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