MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --
The motivation to be the best, stand above peers and be recognized is what it takes to be named Marine or Noncommissioned Officer of the Year. For two Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 Marines, that goal has been realized, and it’s just the beginning.
Cpl. Jason Rios, aviation logistics information management and support department noncommissioned officer in charge, and Lance Cpl. Raymond James, maintenance clerk, were recognized for earning NCO and Marine of the Year for the air station.
Both Marines had a driving force behind their action to apply for the award.
For Rios, it was a chance to redeem himself after a drunk driving charge in 2008 and look toward a brighter future.
“The DUI made me look at myself in a new light,” said Rios, 27, originally from Fort Worth, Texas. “I had to create a whole new set of goals. One of them was being the best Marine I could be.”
James’s drive was simply to be the best.
“I went all-out,” said James, a 19-year-old Houston native. “I did all my annual training over again. I did what I had to so that I looked like the ideal Marine. I’m a perfectionist; I wasn’t going to let this go without trying my hardest.”
To be chosen for the awards, the Marines went through a rigorous application process.
“They looked at everything,” said Rios. “I’ve been on seven boards before this one and I won five out of seven. This board didn’t just look at my paperwork, they looked at what I do in my off-time, what I do at work and my conduct as a Marine 24/7.”
Before Rios and James even thought of applying for the awards, they had to make another decision, to join the Corps.
“Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a Marine,” said Rios. “My father was a Marine and he always told us about how great it was and how you could retire after 20 years.” “I just wanted something challenging,” said James.
“I wanted something I, and my family, would be proud of when they told people what their son did.” Indeed, the families are proud.
“When I told them I had won, my mom started crying,” said James. “My dad just said to me, ‘What, you only got it for Yuma? Not the whole Corps?’ He’s proud, he just knows I can do better.”
For Rios, the call home was especially gratifying.
“It was nice to be able to call them with some good news,” said Rios. “Last time they got a call, it was for when I was in trouble. This time I got to tell them I had accomplished something great.”
After winning the awards and receiving their Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medals, both Marines look to the future.
“I figure I’ll do 30 years and retire as a sergeant major,” said Rios.
James, on the other hand, had a much grander goal.
“I’m going to try for sergeant major in 14 years,” said James.
It was, however, in these moments that both Marines thought of those who had helped them along the path to Marine and NCO of the Year.
“I just couldn’t have done it without my superiors guiding me and busting their humps to get me to the level I needed to be at,” said James. “I owe it all to them.”
“I was just glad that I have Marines above me, who, upon seeing an opportunity for me to prosper and grow, gave me that opportunity,” said Rios.
Among the many perks of being Yuma Marine and NCO of the Year, are getting their picture hung in the Marine Corps Exchange, and station headquarters building parking spaces outside the gym and Sonoran Pueblo.