First Female Force-Level Sgt. Maj. in Marine Corps – Sgt. Major Joy Kitashima

The Marine Corps installed its first female force-level Sergeant Major on March 9, 2023. I wrote about her last year when she had been appointed to another leadership position in her now almost three-decade-long career. Now she has taken yet another step forward and upward in this new role. It is clear that she is recognized for her leadership skills and her Marine Corps acumen.

Sgt. Maj. Kitashima will now be the highest-ranking enlisted person in the III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF). Her role will be to function as the senior enlisted advisor to the commander of III MEF. Kitashima will be serving under Lt. Gen. James Bierman, Jr. According to an article in the Marine Times, written by Irene Loewenson, Kitashima will have command responsibilities as the senior enlisted officer of the III MEF over the 19,000 Marines and sailors at Okinawa, Japan, as well as approximately 3,200 Marines on the mainland of Japan and another 5,000 in Hawaii.

Kitashima was born in Bloomington, Indiana, and entered the Marine Corps in 1996. After boot camp, she served with the military police before becoming a combat instructor at infantry schools and then the enlisted leader for Basic School, where the newly minted Marine Corps officers are trained.

Photo: Twitter/ U.S. Marines

Over her career, she has served in many leadership roles. According to a III MEF news release, Kitashima has been Sgt. Maj. of Marine Air Control Squadron, 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison, the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, II MEF Information Group, Marine Corps Installations Pacific, and the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. Kitashima is replacing Sgt. Maj. Eric Cook, who is moving on to the lead enlisted role as Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Forces Pacific. By Kitashima’s resume, we can only conclude that very early on in her career, the Marine Corps recognized her leadership skills and her demeanor as a Marine and that she has proven her leadership abilities at every step of the way.

Sgt. Maj. Kitashima has been deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq. Over her career, she has received the following awards: The Meritorious Service Medal with three gold stars in lieu of a 4th award, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with two stars in lieu of a 3rd award, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with two stars in lieu of a 3rd award, the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal with six stars in lieu of a 7th award, and the National Defense Medal.

Photo: Twitter/ U.S. Marines

The Pentagon’s concerns about the increasing tensions in the Pacific region due to the growing belligerence of China in that region, are making the III MEF an ever more important part of the Marine Corps’s global strategy. They are, as Marines are meant to be, the point of the spear in that increasingly tense part of the world.

Sgt. Maj. Joy Kitashima has reached the highest level of leadership for anyone in the enlisted ranks of the United States Marine Corps. She has earned the Marine Corps’s respect and trust to be in such an important role. We thank her for her service and wish her the best in the duties before her. Bravo Zulu, Sgt. Maj. Kitashima! Semper Fidelis!

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