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Commandant awards top performing Marines in Quantico

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Top performing Marines

Marines gathered from around the Corps at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, May 11, 2016, for the Commandant of the Marine Corps Combined Awards Ceremony.

The ceremony recognized top performing Marines serving in B-Billets, as career planners and athletes from throughout the Marine Corps.

“Marines build teams,” said Gen. Robert Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps. “You are here as an individual, but I know you’d say you were successful because you were part of a team. It’s a great honor to present these awards.”

Each finalist was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal by Neller and Sgt. Maj. Ronald Green, the sergeant major of the Marine Corps.

“The ceremony is about recognizing the men and women who are globally impacting the Marine Corps by recruiting, retention, training or security across the world,” said Sgt. Maj. David Jobe, sergeant major of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, MCB Quantico.

Two finalists from each category were recognized with one Marine from each category announced as the winner. The categories of recognition were Recruiter of the Year, Prior Service Recruiter of the Year, Drill Instructor of the Year, Marine Combat Instructor of the Year, Career Planner of the Year, Reserve Career Planner of the Year, Marine Security Guard of the Year and a male and female Athlete of the Year.

Gunnery Sgt. Francisco Soto, Recruiting Station San Francisco, 12th Marine Corps District was selected as Recruiter of the Year. Gunnery Sgt. Eric Gulbranson, Recruiting Station Oklahoma City, 8th Marine Corps District was selected as Prior Service Recruiter of the Year. Gunnery Sgt. Miguel Cortes Jr., Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, was selected as Drill Instructor of the Year. Staff Sgt. Jonathon Manuel, School of Infantry East, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, was selected as Marine Combat Instructor of the Year. Gunnery Sgt. Justin Gregory, Training and Education Command, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, was selected as Career Planner of the Year. Staff Sgt. Christopher Smith, Force Headquarters Group, New Orleans, was selected as Reserve Career Planner of the Year. Staff Sgt. Stacey Sherbert, American Embassy Harare, Zimbabwe, was selected as Marine Security Guard of the Year. Capt. Bryce Saddoris, Headquarters and Service Battalion, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and Capt. Christine Taranto, Naval Post Graduate School, Monterey, California, both were selected as Athletes of the Year. Soto, Gulbranson, Manuel, Gregory, Smith and Sherbert were also meritoriously promoted to their current ranks.

Gifts were also presented to each finalist by the Marine Corps Association and Foundation, the Fleet Reserve Association, USAA financial services company and Geico.

“To the families who are here, thank you so much for supporting your Marines,” said Neller. “I know it is not easy. I’m glad you’re here with us today.”

Family members of each finalist were also recognized with a presentation of certificates by Neller and Green, for their sustained faithful and devoted service and support of their Marines.

The CMC Combined Awards Program began in 1995 under the direction of Gen. Charles Krulack, 31st commandant of the Marine Corps, by recognizing the Recruiter of the Year. The awards have expanded since to include the current categories of recognition. The finalists were all recognized by their units as top performers who competed against their peers throughout their command. The two finalists competed against each other on a board to determine the winner.

“It’s very humbling to know I was selected from a group of Marines who deserve this award just as much as I do,” said Cortes, Drill Master, Drill Instructor School, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego. “I think of this award also for the Marine drill instructors on the West Coast because they work just as hard as I do.”

The finalists from each category spent May 12 touring the White House and Capitol building in Washington, D.C. with their families.

By Sgt. Melissa Karnath

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