MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Sgt. Maj. James M. Ricker was relieved of his duty as sergeant major of the Combat Center by Sgt. Maj. William Johnson Jr., in a sergeant major relief, appointment and retirement ceremony March 15 held on the Combat Center’s Parade Field.
Along with appointing duties of the new sergeant major, the Marine Corps also recognized the retirement of Ricker, who served as sergeant major of the combat center for two years, a sergeant major in the Marine Corps for nearly 10 years, a staff noncommissioned officer for 24 years, and a Marine for 30 years.
The Moorhead, Minn., native embarked on his journey in the Marine Corps in the Spring of 1976. His first assigned duty station was at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., with Marine Training Unit. He journeyed through the country in the late 1970’s, landing a qualification as an Aircraft Plane Captain at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, Calif.
He continued his career as a leader, serving in the Western Pacific Ocean in the early 1980’s, picking up tasks as a staff NCO, and returning to the United States where he served in an array of billets, to include Golf Company first sergeant, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. After serving as the sergeant major of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, he was appointed as sergeant major of the Combat Center in March 2004.
Ricker imparted his wisdom on the Marines and Sailors at the morning ceremony, before departing his duties in the Corps.
“Marines, always take care of the mission, and the mission will take care of you,” said Ricker. “All of you have what it takes when the nation calls for us, and I thank you for that.”
Combat Center commanding general, Brig. Gen. Douglas M. Stone, spoke of Ricker to the guests who attended the ceremony.
“He’s truly a Marines’ man,” said Stone. “He’s done more for the Corps and for the Marines and Sailors than I can ever describe. The public affairs officer found a Chinese proverb that says ‘talk does not cook rice.’ Sgt. Maj. Ricker exemplifies the true meaning of that proverb. In Marine language, it means taking care of Marines and completing the mission, while balancing the two. He does. He’s always been in the business of ‘making it happen.’”
Stepping on deck as the Combat Center’s sergeant major is a Georgetown, S.C., native and a Howard High Vocational School graduate. Johnson embarked on his journey in the Marine Corps in the Fall of 1978, graduating from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. He received training in his military occupational specialty as hygiene equipment operator and was honor graduate of his class at the Army Quartermaster School, Fort Lee, Va.
Through great initiative and after proving his worth, Johnson was meritoriously promoted to sergeant in February 1981, continuing his role as a leader. He served on embassy duty in Abidjan on the Ivory Coast of Africa, and Madrid, Spain.
After achieving the rank of staff sergeant, he received training to become a career planner. He later reported to drill instructor school in 1987 and became a drill instructor at MCRD San Diego.
Johnson continued serving in an array of billets throughout the Marine Corps, deploying to Somalia for Operation Restore Hope and voyaging with the 31st MEU, as one of the world famous “Black Sheep,” Marine Attack Squadron 214.
After serving with Headquarters and Service Battalion, Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Va., since July 2003, Johnson came to the Combat Center to take charge of Ricker’s duties as sergeant major of the base.
“What I have to bring to this base is myself as a person, and leading as a Marine,” said Johnson. “My philosophy of leadership is to lead by example. So, what you see here is what you will get, and I will lead by example.
“I’m really excited to join this base,” continued Johnson. “This is a vital area for all Marines who are deploying. I’m glad to be a part of it. I am definitely going to be getting involved with the Marines and Sailors in the training area on every occasion and opportunity I have. I am really impressed with the professionalism, integrity and honesty with the staff here. They greeted my wife [Daisy] and I with open arms. It’s a pleasure and humbling to now be a part of the Combat Center team.”