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III MEF bids farewell to Sergeant Major Mario Marquez

By U.S. Marine Corps story by Lance Cpl. Francesca Landis | II Marine Expeditionary Force | August 7, 2020

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CAMP COURTNEY, Okinawa, Japan- III Marine Expeditionary Force Marines and sailors bid farewell to III MEF Sergeant Major Sgt. Maj. Mario A. Marquez here on Aug. 4, 2020.

Sgt. Maj. Michael P. Woods, formerly the U. S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa sergeant major, will take over as the new III MEF sergeant major. A traditional post and relief ceremony could not be held due to current COVID-19 safety protocols.

After 31 years of honorable service, Marquez will officially retire from the United States Marine Corps in Dec. of 2020. Serving multiple tours with III MEF throughout his career, he has left a tremendous impact on the Marines and sailors serving in the Indo-Pacific and the local Okinawa community.

“I came here as a young Private First Class,” said Marquez. “I didn’t want to be here, but within a few months of arriving in Okinawa, I fell in love with the place. There’s just something special about being stationed here; the culture, the language and the people for one thing. It opens your mind and really forces you to learn and understand.”

During his time in Okinawa, he volunteered with numerous local outreach programs and volunteer groups across the island. He is well known for his radio shows with Mari Gregory, as they worked together to enhance the understanding of Japanese culture among service members and to create bonds within the community.

“Life is more exciting if you can live it to the fullest by appreciating different cultures and embracing more people,” said Marquez. “When you are exposed to different cultures and are able to establish relationships with them, you gain their trust and confidence.”

Along with his dedication to supporting the local community, Marquez was also involved in numerous operations, exchange programs, and humanitarian exercises throughout the Indo-Pacific.

In 1995, Marquez deployed in support of the Hanshin Earthquake relief efforts in Kobe and Osaka, Japan. In 2009, during his second tour in Okinawa, he was transferred to Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 1, where he had the privilege of taking part in the Japanese Officer Exchange Program.

In 2015, Marquez returned once more to III MEF as the Sergeant Major for 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, employing over 8,000 Marines and sailors and more than 200 Aircraft across the region. Because of his exemplary work, in 2017 he was selected to remain on Okinawa as the new Sergeant Major for III Marine Expeditionary Force.

“I’ve been stationed overseas for 13 years consecutively, and this is the place to be,” said Marquez. “It’s no surprise that the commandant has determined III MEF as his main focus of effort.”

While honoring Sgt. Maj. Marquez’s life of service, Sgt. Maj. Woods committed himself to picking up the torch right where Marquez left off.

“First and foremost to Sgt. Maj. Marquez thank you for your 31 years of honorable and faithful service to our country, you’ve enriched so many lives and you truly left it better than you found it,” said Woods. “I’m going to promise upfront to give the very best part of myself each and every day as we increase the warfighting skill and will of this MEF together.”

Upon his retirement, Marquez will take on the role of national director for veteran’s affairs and rehabilitation at the American Legion.
“What a way to thank the Marine Corps and everything they’ve given me,” said Marquez. “Now I can give back to the Marine Corps and help fight for veteran’s benefits.”


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