MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Sgt. Maj. James M. Ricker has served 30 years in the Marine Corps, passed through many installations and billets, and the end of the road is here.
Ricker, The Combat Center sergeant major for the past two years, retired during a ceremony at the Combat Center’s Parade Field Wednesday.
A Moorhead, Minn., native, Ricker enlisted April 20, 1976, and graduated boot camp from Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, July 15, that same year.
Becoming a Marine was something Ricker wanted to do since he was a child.
“When I was a young kid, my sister had a friend who married a Marine, and one day, we came upon his dress blues,” Ricker said. “I remember thinking, ‘I don’t know how he got these, but I’ve got to get a pair.’ Years later when I was in high school, I saw a recruiter in those pants and that’s how it got to me.”
Ricker began training for his first military occupational specialty, as a structure and hydraulic mechanic, at Marine Air Training Support Group, Millington, Tenn., and later qualified to be an aircraft plane captain for the TA-4 jet.
His other job descriptions include, but are not limited to, maintenance quality assurance inspector, aircraft maintenance control chief, and more than three non-commissioned officers-in-charge billets.
In 1991, as a gunnery sergeant, Ricker was an instructor at the Naval Aviation Maintenance Training Group Detachment, Lemoore, Calif. During his assignment as an instructor, he was qualified to instruct five different courses dealing with F/A-18 Hornet aircraft. He was awarded the Department of the Navy Master Training Specialist designation in 1993.
In 1999, Ricker was appointed as director of the Staff Non-Commissioned Officer Academy in Okinawa, Japan.
He picked up the rank of sergeant major in March 1998. Ricker served in more than four different commands in the role of sergeant major.
“Sergeant majors take care of the enlisted Marines, Sailors and their families,” said Ricker. “A sergeant major must be prepared to be very busy, but satisfied at the end of the day.”
Ricker has served as the Combat Center sergeant major since March 14, 2004.
Throughout his career, Ricker has been awarded the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal with gold star, Navy-Marine Corps Commendation medal with gold star and Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal.
Ricker says he stayed in the Marine Corps for so many years because he was having fun, and he enjoyed being surrounded by the focused individuals he met in the Marine Corps. He also offers advice for those faced with the decision of staying Marine.
“You don’t know how it’s going to turn out,” he said. “You just have to apply yourself. The more you put into it, the more you get out of it. It’s very linear like that. Don’t expect anything. Go earn it.”
Following his retirement, Ricker plans on staying in the area, relaxing for a while, and spending time with his wife, Barbara, and his two children, Jade and Jacob.
Through the many paths the Marine Corps has taken him, Ricker takes away something from each one.
“From serving here, at the Combat Center, I’ve learned the real value of teamwork,” he said. “I’ve seen from both sides of the communities, military and civilian, the same goal; making sure everyone’s taken care of in all aspects.”
Ricker hopes he can pass on what he has learned through his career to the Marines and Sailors he has served with.
“Earn every dollar that passes through your hands,” he said, passing along advice gleaned from his 30 years of experience. “Never let the onset of liberty cloud your judgment, and always take care of the mission.”
“Thank you for stepping up,” he continued speaking towards all Marines and Sailors. “You answered the call. Whether you serve for four, eight, 20 or 30 years, when you go back to your community, give back to the community.”