US Marine Sgt. Maj. Pleasure Maria Kitashima will return to Okinawa subsequent 12 months, the Japanese island the place her army police profession started. However this time she’s going to be the prime enlisted advisor at III Marine Expeditionary Pressure.
On Nov. 22, Lt. Gen. James W. Bierman Jr. selected Kitashima, 46, to hitch his command. When she takes her publish in July of 2023, she’ll change into the primary feminine force-level sergeant main within the historical past of the Marine Corps.
In her 26-year profession, she has seen stints in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Haiti, however the Bloomington, Indiana, native by no means thought-about enlisting till a recruiter approached her whereas she was learning regulation enforcement in faculty.
“Typically you don’t know the chance proper in entrance of your face till you benefit from it. And that was my case,” Kitashima instructed Espresso or Die Journal.
After graduating from Vincennes College with an affiliate of science diploma in regulation enforcement in 1996, she started a really totally different type of training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and army police faculty at Alabama’s Fort McClellan.
The Corps lower her orders to 1st Marine Plane Wing, a one-year tour on Okinawa. After that, she served as an MP at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Level in North Carolina and as a Marine fight teacher on the College of Infantry East.
She solely meant to remain within the Corps till her preliminary contract ended, however she instructed Espresso or Die doorways saved opening for her, and he or she discovered extra alternatives to develop as a noncommissioned officer, so she stayed.
At the moment, she envies the “younger brains” who go into the service realizing they’ll make a profession of it, “as a result of I didn’t know that.”
“I didn’t realize it ever,” she mentioned.
She went to Marine Fight Coaching as a result of her grasp gunnery sergeant mentioned the college wanted “females who can PT.” He requested if she was , and he or she shot again, “Completely.”
Kitashima admits on the time she didn’t know the distinction between an M203 grenade launcher and an M136 AT4 rocket launcher, however she was “all in.”
She reenlisted and went to Camp Geiger as a corporal.
“That’s type of been the theme all through the profession,” she mentioned. “Simply because I don’t know what I’m entering into, it doesn’t imply I’m going to be too afraid to attempt. And likewise, they’re known as ‘orders.’”
Studying and educating about fight additionally modified her.
Kitashima now not noticed herself as primarily a regulation enforcement officer. She realized it was extra necessary to be a Marine.
“That was each little bit of the problem and every part I ever wished out of being a Marine, and I had that,” she mentioned.
At Camp Geiger, she served beneath leaders who believed in her “far more than I ever did.” They saved difficult her to be extra, to do extra, to guide Marines.
And after MCT, different commanders and senior enlisted Marines did the identical factor.
“No person’s checked out me like ‘Nicely, try to be doing this, and doing this, as a result of that’s what I did.’ They didn’t have a look at me like that. They checked out me like, ‘Hey, you’re a frontrunner, what do you wish to do?’ After which they allowed me to form my type based mostly on steerage and mentoring as a result of we’re at all times being mentored.”
She took these classes all the best way up the enlisted ladder.
In late 2016, she was named the fifth Naval Gunfire Liaison Firm sergeant main.
Lower than two years later, she bought orders to change into II MEF’s Info Group’s prime enlisted Marine. She assumed the duties of Marine Corps Installations Pacific sergeant main in mid-2020. Two years later, she took the identical publish at 2nd Marine Plane Wing in North Carolina.
Kitashima’s awards embrace the Legion of Benefit Medal, 4 Meritorious Service Medals, and three Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals.
Subsequent 12 months, she’ll be joined at Camp Courtney by her husband, Mark, a retired grasp gunnery sergeant, and their 11-year-old daughter, Caitlynn.
“I hope I by no means do suppose that I’ve arrived, as a result of if studying isn’t occurring day by day — whether or not or not it’s from the younger Marines in my workplace, who’re educating me slang that I actually don’t must know, to mentors who’ve been in loads longer than I — it’s the training piece,” she instructed Espresso or Die. “I hope I by no means lose that.”
Kitashima “stopped placing a quantity” on her time in service a very long time go. Now, she simply hopes to maintain being a Marine till she feels she’s now not serving the next goal.
“Daily, so long as I get up and I’ve a cause to go in to work — that may hopefully profit the Marines and sailors and my household — then I’ll proceed serving. Possibly III MEF, perhaps that’s it, and it’ll have been a tremendous experience. Life occurs. I’m going to play it by ear. However I gained’t give up, and I’ll give it every part I’ve bought day by day,” she mentioned.
No lady has change into the sergeant main of the Marine Corps, however that cup ceiling was shattered within the Air Pressure on Aug. 14.
That’s when Chief Grasp Sgt. of the Air Pressure JoAnne S. Bass grew to become the service’s nineteenth chief grasp sergeant.
And like Kitashima, she by no means thought she’d maintain serving past her first contract. However she did.
“All through my Air Pressure profession, my intentions have at all times been to observe the recommendation my mom gave me: do your job and do it nicely,” Bass instructed Espresso or Die Journal in a ready assertion. “Any challenges I confronted, or obstacles I needed to overcome, had been framed with that intent. The tougher I labored, the extra I spotted that success involves those that are sometimes too busy to search for it…and finally, it’s one’s character and competency that issues most. I want all one of the best to Sgt. Maj. Kitashima on this unimaginable honor she has earned.”
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