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Marine Corps names new top enlisted leader

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Marine Sgt. Maj. Carlos Ruiz
FILE: Sergeant Maj. Carlos Ruiz onSept. 20, 2013. Ruiz has been named as the 20th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. Cpl. James Gulliver/U.S. Marine Corps)

Sgt. Maj. Carlos A. Ruiz, who went from being a warehouse clerk before a stint as a drill instructor, will become the Marine Corps’ principal enlisted leader and adviser to the commandant, Corps officials announced on Monday.

Ruiz has been picked to serve as the 20th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, starting on Aug. 8. He is currently the senior enlisted leader for U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve and U.S. Marine Corps Forces South.

Originally from Phoenix, Ruiz enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1993. He deployed to Iraq in 2003 and then twice to Afghanistan, according to his official biography. Ruiz began his Marine Corps career as a warehouse clerk. He went on to serve as a recruiter in Los Angeles and he was later assigned to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, where he served as a drill instructor, drill master and chief instructor for Drill Instructor School.

Ruiz’s military awards include the Bronze Star Medal with combat distinguishing device, Combat Action Ribbon with one gold star, the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal with gold star, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with two gold stars, and Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with one gold star.

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In December, Marine Corps officials initially nominated Ruiz to become the next senior enlisted leader for U.S. Space Command. He was subsequently selected to become Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, which is a more senior billet.

Marine Sgt. Maj. Carlos A. Ruiz
Sgt. Maj. Carlos Ruiz will serve as the 20th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps)

Ruiz is stepping into the job as Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps at a time of transition. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger is retiring next month. During his tenure, Berger has implemented several controversial decisions meant to make sure the Marines are better prepared to fight a war against China, including getting rid of the Corps’ tanks along with Scout Snipers.

Marine Gen. Eric Smith, who is currently serving as assistant commandant, has been nominated to replace Berger. But his confirmation could be affected by a dispute in the Senate. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) is using a procedural move to slow the confirmation of all general and flag officers.

Tuberville is protesting a Defense Department policy that pays service members’ travel expenses for abortion care if they are stationed in states where it is illegal for them to have access to reproductive care. Pentagon officials implemented the policy after states began to ban abortion care in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision last year to reverse Roe v. Wade. 

Ruiz will replace current Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy Black, who has held the job since July 2019.

During a March 6 interview with Matthew Cothron, who co-hosts the Zero Blog Thirty podcast as “Uncle Chaps,” Black looked back at his 35-year career in the Marine Corps.

Black said one experience where he felt he did not do enough as a leader happened in 2010, when one of his Marines was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. Although Black’s unit had repeatedly practiced how to deal with IEDs, this Marine had used his foot instead of his hands to brush dirt off the device, and the bomb went off.

Ever since, Black has wondered if he and his Marines had practiced enough on what to do when they encountered IEDs.

“You’re talking about living with guilt,” Black said. “The fact of the matter is you don’t know [whose fault the Marine’s death was]. You asked what my biggest failure was: Probably not doing that one more time.”

On Monday, Black issued a statement congratulating Ruiz on being selected as the next Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps.

“He’s a proven leader, a combat veteran and has experience in all elements of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force, especially in his current assignment at U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve,” Black said. “As Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, he will lead our Marines to the next level. He’s a Marine who will continuously provide leadership, guidance, care and advocacy for all Marines and their families.”

UPDATE: 06/05.2023; this story was updated with a statement from Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy Black.

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