MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA,Ariz. -- Hard-charging. Do or die. Locked-on and squared-away. Never quit.
Any of these terms, and more, could be in a mantra chanted by Sgt. Chris Rivera and Lance Cpl. Darryl Thomas, radar technicians with Marine Air Control Squadron-1, as rules to live by.
The two Marines, from MACS-1 Air Traffic Control Detachment 'Charlie,' applied their ambitions to be the best Marines they could be toward acing the most recent Non-Commissioned Officer and Marine of the Quarter competitions, respectively, and took their motivation all the way to the 3d Marine Aircraft Wing level.
"I feel a sense of pride. Only in the Marine Corps do they give you an award for doing everything you're supposed to do," said Rivera, who earned the 3d MAW NCO of the Quarter honor as a corporal, right before he earned his third chevron meritoriously. "If you do everything you're supposed to do and follow the traits and principals of being a Marine, there's no reason you can't win."
With his positive, can-do attitude, winning as a Marine comes naturally to Rivera.
"When I was in boot camp I felt from day one that I was mature enough to handle any rank," said Rivera, an Allentown, Pa., native. "I always try to go above and beyond what is expected of me. Since Marines are supposed to know their job two ranks above and below their own, I'm always thinking about what my gunnery sergeant does."
While his "gunny's" job may be safe for now, Rivera's ambition to one day become the sergeant major of the Marine Corps is a driving force that has already earned him meritorious promotions to lance corporal, corporal and now, after only five months as a corporal, the rank of sergeant.
"I'm never satisfied. There's always something more you can attain," Rivera vows.
Rivera's drive has been an inspiration to Thomas, though there was plenty of innate ambition flowing through his bloodstream, as well.
Thomas, who won the 3d MAW Marine of the Quarter, has a different but similarly lofty ambition he wants to finish a bachelor's degree and earn his commission as a Marine officer.
"I feel truly blessed. I know I did all I could to earn the Marine of the Year honor, but I know it happened by the grace of God," said Thomas.
The Marines may have had divine inspiration to accomplish what they have so far, but not without a large amount of hard work, too. Thomas and Rivera juggle their radar technician duties and general Marine responsibilities with their families, school and volunteering.
"Hard work, dedication and love for the Marine Corps drives me," Rivera said. "A lot of my life revolves around the Marine Corps."
In addition to his on-duty tasks, Rivera helps out with the Young Marines and the station youth center. His love of teaching and mentoring the youth parallels his desire to be a mentor of another sort a drill instructor.
"I want to teach the future of the Marine Corps," said Rivera, whose first desire was to be an infantryman, but his wife, Deborah, convinced him to pursue a more technical field.
"As Marines we learn flexibility and that rubs off on the family," Rivera said. "My wife is very supportive of my needs, not only as a Marine but also to give back to the community."
Thomas has a similarly career-influencing better half, who supports his extra-curricular activity, wife Alexis. She supports him with his volunteer efforts with the Drug Education For Youth program, coaching youth sports and lending elbow grease with Habitat for Humanity.
"My wife inspires me, and I guess being raised by wonderful parents, I've got the initiative and motivation to do my best," Thomas said.
The ATC Marines are serious about furthering their education, too, as Thomas pursues a degree in psychology while Rivera studies political science at Arizona Western College.
"There's a lot to learn out there," said Thomas, with typical enthusiasm. "I want to learn and learn so I can be the go-to guy."
The Marines feed off of each other, too, as close friends away from the office.
"I love to see Marines like Thomas succeed and set the example," said Rivera, noting the benefits of seeing one's mentorship bear fruit. "I feel pride when they get awards, because it feels like I'm winning, too."
The self-motivated Marines, while recently rewarded for their performances, aren't content to now rest on their laurels.
"I want to stay in the Marine Corps long enough to make a difference and make sure it stays the best fighting force in the world," Rivera said.
"Some Marines forget what the Corps is all about," Rivera continued. "We're Marines first. We're all held to high standards. If you're good at being a Marine, you'll be good at anything."
Thomas and Rivera have taken to heart the traits and principles that are taught in Marine Corps Recruit Training and constantly apply them to their lives, ensuring their continued pursuit of excellence.