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U.S. Marines are recognized at the Fiscal Year 2023 Commandant’s Combined Awards Ceremony at The National Museum of the Marine Corps, Triangle, Virginia, Feb. 8, 2024. The ceremony recognized and awarded eight Marines with the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for their exceptional performance in their respective special duty assignments. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ethan Miller)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Ethan Miller

Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps awards top performing Marines at CMC Awards

12 Feb 2024 | Lance Cpl. David Brandes Marine Corps Base Quantico

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. – Eight Marines earned awards for their performance within their respective special duty assignments during the annual Fiscal Year 2023 Commandant’s Combined Awards Ceremony at National Museum of the Marine Corps, Triangle, Virginia, Feb. 9, 2024.

The Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Christopher J. Mahoney awarded two Marines from each SDA – recruiters, drill instructors, combat instructors, and Marine security guards – for their exceptional work that surpassed their peers.

"Those eight assembled behind me represent the top of all of those four categories, and I'm happy to share in their recognition today,” said Mahoney.

Recruiters Gunnery Sgt. Russell B. Cowan with Recruiting Station San Diego, California, and Gunnery Sgt. Tristan R. Wiggin with RS Tampa, Florida, make up less than a half a fraction of a percent of the recruiting force. Competing against 3,200 others, they earned their spot as the recruiter of the year and runner-up respectively.

“These recruiters are the hunter-gatherers,” Mahoney said, “they are the ones who go out and sell inspiration to the best of America’s youth; they create motivation and then bring it into the Marine Corps.”

He then pointed his attention to the drill instructors, “They take what the hunter-gatherers bring,” speaking of the relationship between recruiters and drill instructors, “take that inspiration, and they build it into the Marine Corps ethos of honor, courage and commitment.”

The Drill Instructor of the Year was Gunnery Sgt. Bryan V. Labiosa from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, and the runner-up was Staff Sgt. Jonathon R. Savage from MCRD San Diego.

“It gives me the confidence to go back into the Fleet Marine Force and train Marines the way they should be trained,” said Labiosa. “My goal is to change lives.”

Then there were combat instructors; out of 791 of them, Gunnery Sgt. Jose R. Acevedo Jr., from the School of Infantry East, earned the Marine Combat Instructor of the Year, and Gunnery Sgt. Russell M. Regehr from SOI West, was awarded as the runner up.

“They put truth to the maxim, ‘every Marine is a rifleman,’” Mahoney said of combat instructors. “They solve the victory equation: skill [multiplied by] will, times drill equals kill.”

Each awardee received a Navy Marine Corps Commendation Medal from the ACMC and sergeant major of the Marine Corps for their duties, recognizing them as the top performers of their SDAs.

“Let me leave you with a fourth number: 1629,” he said next. “That’s the number of Marine security guards on duty right now in 137 countries around the world. They are a symbol of the strength of the United States all around the world.”

From Marine Security Guard School, MCB Quantico, Va., Gunnery Sgt. Matthew M. Kinsman earned MSG of the Year, and from Marine Corps Embassy Security Group, Beijing, China, Gunnery Sgt. Trevor J. Bowen earned the runner-up award.

"It's truly an honor to even be here,” said Bowen. “It's also about my Marines and the Marines that we have out on the Marine Security Guard program right now. Without them and without them doing their job and being excellent, I would not be here today."

He also added, “—but I also realize it's not just about me today; it's about all the other outstanding Marines from all the other special duty assignments.”

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