Marine Corps top athlete nearly forced out of the Corps

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    Marine Capt. Bryce Saddoris, in blue, tries to throw Wuileixis Rivas of Venezuela during their gold medal bout in the 66kg class of the men's greco-roman wrestling at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada, in July. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
    Marine Capt. Bryce Saddoris, in blue, tries to throw Wuileixis Rivas of Venezuela during their gold medal bout in the 66kg class of the men’s greco-roman wrestling at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada, in July. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

    A Marine Corps’ Male Athlete of the Year makes the cut again, keeping his job after a long and arduous process that might have left him on the mat.

    Capt. Bryce Saddoris, a four-time state wrestling champion, two time All-American, and most successful wrestler in Naval Academy history, with 147 wins, a favorite going into the Olympics, expected to take gold in wrestling, along with several of his fellow Marines; has had the workout of his life in keeping his status as an active military.

    Saddoris has excelled in everything he has done in his military career and has successfully fulfilled his assignment as officer-in-charge of the Marine Corps’ wrestling team, overseeing and training forty Marines who rank from private first class to gunnery sergeant, according to the Marine Times.

    So why was Saddoris initially passed over for career designation?

    Capt. Bryce Saddoris
    Marine Capt. Bryce Saddoris, left, earned a silver medal at the July Pan Am Games in Mississauga, Ontario. (Photo: AP)

    Perhaps, as the article explains, “the Marines [in competitive sports] spend upwards of six months on the road annually, which takes its toll on career progression and family relations. Still, more than one dozen earned promotions and six have emerged as Olympic hopefuls”.

    Saddoris might not have had ‘as much time to earn career designation as a supply officer’ but he submitted a package like all of the other candidates, and unfortunately, was not selected. There was no explanation as to the reason or where in the process his package was rejected.

    Marine Times heard about Saddoris’ plight in mid-January and submitted their own queries, wanting to understand how Saddoris could be overlooked for career designation with his impeccable record and the contribution he was making to other athletes and the Marine wrestling team as a whole. According to Marine Times, “days after those questions were fielded by Marine officials, Saddoris received word that he’d get to remain in uniform”.

    The article said “Saddoris was down to his last option: transferring to the Reserve component to complete his remaining obligated service. The Reserve “offers many opportunities to Marines including [military occupational specialty] retraining, direct affiliation bonuses, promotion and career advancement, as well as individual mobilization augmentee billet and deployment opportunities,” the reserve, retention and release officer at Manpower Management Officer Assignment, who oversees the career designation process, Capt. Joseph Bromen said. “Additionally, Capt. Saddoris will have the opportunity to apply to the Return to Active Duty Program…if he so chooses,” he added.

    However, Saddoris did not have to choose the Reserve or another path to remain in active service. On Thursday, he found out that he would be keeping his job, and remaining in uniform.

    “Because I have a unique set of talents that the Marine Corps saw fit for me to use and for me to be a different ambassador for the Marine Corps, a different type of leader,” he said. “I have taken those duties and I have taken the skills and I have done the best I possibly could have done these past five years. No matter the outcome, I look back on my career and know that I gave it everything and there wasn’t one day that I thought ‘I’m done, I want to be out of the Marine Corps.’ I’m fighting to stay in the Marine Corps because I want to be a Marine.”

    There is no explanation for the delay in Saddoris’ acceptance and career designation, but Bromen assured the Officer Retention Board systems are “fair and equitable.”

    Saddoris remains concerned about other Marines being passed over who would otherwise excel in competition but are afraid to step forward for fear of losing vital career opportunities, like the risk he took. “The Marine Corps athletic program is a good thing. We are doing what Marines do and we are developing them — making them mentally tougher, more disciplined, and harder working,” Saddoris said. “The product that we give back to the units is much better.”

    He acknowledges his own unique contribution and is satisfied that he will be continuing his career path with the Marines, after sharing that at 27, his competitive wrestling career is coming to an end, “I’m 27 years old. In the athletic world, I’m a grandpa. I’m the old guy. I’m wrestling kids under 18 and 19 years old. I don’t have that much longer as far as competing. I would be happy to stay with the team and help develop up-and-coming Marines, I would be happy going to the fleet. Whichever way it goes, I am comfortable with that,” he said.

    “Because I have a unique set of talents that the Marine Corps saw fit for me to use and for me to be a different ambassador for the Marine Corps, a different type of leader,” he said. “No matter the outcome, I look back on my career and know that I gave it everything”.

    Saddoris is hopeful about his next bid for the Olympics and he is satisfied that he will continue his career with the Marines.

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