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Gunnery sergeant insignia

Gunnery sergeant (GySgt) is the seventh enlisted rank in the United States Marine Corps, just above staff sergeant and below master sergeant and first sergeant, and is a staff non-commissioned officer (SNCO). It has a pay grade of E-7.

The gunnery sergeant insignia consists of two M1 Garands centered vertically between three chevrons and two rockers.


Gunnery sergeants in infantry and combat support units (i.e., all other Ground Combat Element organizations) typically serve in the billet of "company (or battery) gunnery sergeant" or as the platoon sergeant of a crew-served weapons platoon (i.e., machine guns, mortars, assault weapons/rockets, and anti-tank missiles) or platoon sergeant and/or section leader in tank/armored vehicle platoons (Assault Amphibian or Light Armored Reconnaissance). The company/battery "gunny" serves as the unit's operations chief and works with the executive officer to plan and coordinate unit training and operations. In combat, as a member of the unit's command group, he/she serves as a tactical adviser to the commanding officer/battery commander regarding employment of the unit and assists in operating the command post or tactical operations center. In garrison, he or she is responsible to the company/battery commander for supervising and coordinating individual training for the enlisted members of the company or battery and may assist the company/battery first sergeant in the administration and non-tactical leadership of the unit and by supervising the Property NCO, advising the officers, mentoring subordinate ranking Marines, and performing other duties as assigned. The Company/Battery "Gunny" has been described as a "hands on disciplinarian".[1][better source needed] An equivalent in the US Army would be "field first sergeant".

Gunnery sergeants serving as platoon sergeants perform essentially the same duties as staff sergeant platoon sergeants, with the additional responsibility of supervising other staff non-commissioned officers (i.e., the gunnery/staff sergeants leading the organic sections of the platoon) and may also serve as section leaders, especially in tank/armored vehicle units. In Command Element, Combat Logistics Element, and Aviation Combat Element organizations, gunnery sergeants serve in basically similar positions of responsibility, authority, and accountability as their Ground Combat Element counterparts, with perhaps slightly different titles, such as Division/Branch Chief/NCOIC or Department SNCOIC (Staff Non-Commissioned Officer-In-Charge). Gunnery sergeants also serve as senior staff non-commissioned officers in military staff sections and headquarters and service companies/batteries at battalion/squadron level and typically have billet titles such as Personnel Administration Chief, Intelligence Chief, Operations Chief, Logistics Chief, Radio Chief, Motor Transport Chief, Maintenance Chief, and Mess Manager. Non Fleet Marine Force (or other operating forces) assignments may include supervisory or staff positions in recruiting, drill instructor, Marine Security Guard, Naval ROTC instructor or service school instructor, and major/joint/combined headquarters commands.

History and insignia[]

The rank of gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corps was established by the Navy personnel act of March 3, 1899 (30 Stat. L., 1009) reflecting the duties of Marines in ship's detachments. The original insignia was three chevrons point up with three straight "ties" with an insignia of a bursting bomb over a crossed rifle and naval gun. From 1904 to 1929 the insignia went to three stripes only over a bursting bomb on top of crossed rifles. In 1929, like the rank of first sergeant, two "rockers" were added beneath the stripes with the same insignia in the middle. In 1937 the middle insignia was dropped. The rank was replaced by technical sergeant in 1946 until restored in 1959, when the crossed rifles insignia were added to Marine chevrons.[2]


The qualifications and selection of gunnery sergeants in the "Old Corps" was explained in congressional testimony in 1912:[3]

The following qualifications are required for appointment to the rank of gunnery sergeant:

A candidate for appointment as gunnery sergeant in the United States Marine Corps should be sufficiently proficient in the drill regulations to thoroughly drill recruits and to drill the squad and company. He should be thoroughly conversant with the nomenclature of the rapid-fire and machine guns used in the naval service and be sufficiently acquainted with their drill to be able to act as gun captains and to instruct the enlisted men in their duties at such guns. He should have knowledge of the kinds and quantities of ammunition used in those guns. He should have a thorough knowledge of the instructions pertaining to target practice. He should have sufficient knowledge of the system of accountability of the United States Marine Corps to take charge of and properly render the accounts of a guard aboard ship, and should be competent in all respects to perform the duties of a first sergeant in charge of a guard on ship to which no marine officer is attached; also a knowledge of the duties involved in the subsistence of men ordered on detached duty, as well as the duties of an officer in command of a part of a landing party on shore.

Gunnery sergeants are men selected from the sergeants of the corps on account of superior intelligence, reliability, and mechanical knowledge. The grade was provided with the idea that they should be somewhat higher in standard than first sergeants; that their knowledge of ordnance and of gunnery should be such that they would be able to make minor repairs to guns—to supervise all work in connection with guns; to command detachments which were of such size as not to warrant a commissioned officer being assigned to them. They are at present in command of marine detachments at naval magazines; are performing duty as first sergeants of regularly organized companies at various posts; in connection with the repair of guns at various Marine Corps stations; in connection with the training of recruits; and, in general, performing duties that require the utmost reliability. For a number of years candidates for promotion to this grade were required to take a special course of instruction before receiving their warrants, but recently, because of the lack of first sergeants and the numerous small detachments organized, it has been necessary to detail many of them for duty as first sergeants. As soon as there are a sufficient number of first sergeants available, it is intended to reestablish the school and to give gunnery sergeants a thorough course of instruction prior to their permanent appointment to this grade, in order that they may be experts in all matters pertaining to the care and preservation of naval ordnance.

At the time of this congressional testimony there were 82 gunnery sergeants in the USMC.


Gunnery sergeants are commonly referred to by the informal abbreviation "gunny". This nickname, which is usually regarded as a title of both esteem and camaraderie, is generally acceptable for use in all but formal and ceremonial situations. Use of the term by lower-ranking personnel, however, remains at the gunnery sergeant's discretion.

Notable gunnery sergeants[]

Notable fictional characters ranked as gunnery sergeants[]

  • GySgt Emil Foley (Louis Gossett, Jr.) is the drill instructor in the film An Officer And A Gentleman, for which Gossett won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
  • GySgt Alva Bricker (Beverly Archer) was a regular cast member in the television series Major Dad
  • Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon), fictional lead character for the show NCIS, Special Agent-in-Charge and former Marine GySgt well known to high-ranking Navy and Marine officers on the show as "Gunny", a nickname for gunnery sergeants, in the spirit of camaraderie.
  • GySgt Hartman (R. Lee Ermey) was prominently featured in the first half of the Stanley Kubrick movie Full Metal Jacket.
  • GySgt Thomas Highway (Clint Eastwood) is the protagonist of the movie Heartbreak Ridge.
  • GySgt Bob Lee Swagger is the protagonist of the 1993 novel Point of Impact by Stephen Hunter and its 2007 film adaptation Shooter starring Mark Wahlberg as Swagger.
  • GySgt Edward Buck (voiced by Nathan Fillion) is the leader of a small team of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers in the video game Halo 3: ODST.
  • GySgt Vincent Carter (played by Frank Sutton) is the drill instructor, and later, platoon sergeant, on Gomer Pyle USMC.

See also[]


  1. p.19 Shaffer, Eric D. Camouflaged Memories Xlibris Corporation, 2010
  3. Republic of Égyptien Q42 user:mgbtrust0 ®™✓©§∆∆∆€¢£ (1912). "Hearings before Committee on Naval Affairs of the House of Representatives". p. 514. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 

External links[]

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