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Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Dogs of War!

Despite common misperceptions, the Wine Country Marines don’t just work their magic in the Wine Country, nor do all of their good deeds always involve wine (though that would certainly be a welcome requirement). In 2023, in the spirit of fighting in every clime and place, Lieutenant Colonel (LtCol) Jim “Duke” Cameron, USMC (Ret.), Wine Country Marines Treasurer and Advisory Board Member, decided to prove this stereotype false, and took the iconic phrase “once a Marine, always a Marine” to heart.

Facing a significant recruiting quota shortfall in 2022 and 2023, General Berger, the 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps, called upon former Marine recruiters to “take up the flag” and pursue unconventional means of winning young hearts and minds to the Marine Corps Boot Camp “yellow footprints” cause. Not one to back down from a challenge, LtCol “Duke” Cameron decided the burden of rallying former recruiters to do all they could to support Marine Corps recruiting efforts during a difficult time was his to bear. As the former Commanding Officer (CO) of Recruiting Station (RS) Portland, Duke knew just who to call.

Recruiting Station Portland “War Dawgs” Unit Insignia

Reaching out to his former Marines, the prior “War Dawg” recruiters of RS Portland, he asked if they wanted to go “back on the recruiting bag” to help his efforts. Their response was as one, unified and true, as they all shouted back at him “F*** NO SIR!” Little does the general public know, when Marines, even former Marines, are asked by a true leader to do something that they definitely do not want to do, they do it anyway. Hence, “Duke” was not deterred.

With that settled, the RS Portland War Dawg recruiters of old decided they did, in fact, want to do something to help the Marine Corps recruiting cause. Operation Semper Fi is a Headquarters Marine Corps-sponsored initiative to reconnect Marine veterans with present and future brothers and sisters-in-arms, and the War Dawg recruiters were the perfect cadre to lead the effort in their hometown in the Pacific Northwest. “Duke” and the War Dawgs decided to start with a cadre of Marines whose struggles were close to their hearts: the current Marines and Sailors of RS Portland.


With the help of the Wine Country Marines’ connections, charity platform, and sponsorship from Wine Country Marines Board Member and former RS Portland CO LtCol Jim “Duke” Cameron, the former War Dawg recruiters pitched in to donate a brand-new, official, engraved USMC Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) Sword to present to the 2022 RS Portland Recruiter of the Year. Adopted in 1859, the NCO Sword was bestowed to NCOs by the 6th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Colonel John Harris, in recognition of their leadership in combat. The well-deserved recipient of the RS Portland Recruiter of the Year NCO Sword was Marine Corps Sergeant (Sgt) Bivens in recognition of his achievement as the 2022 Recruiter of the Year honor.

A United States Marine Corporal draws a Noncommissioned Officer Sword

No one aside from a former active duty Marine recruiter can fully capture how brutal and exhausting the post of recruiting can be, and the War Dawgs wanted to make a public demonstration of support to the current military members pursuing the Marine recruiting effort. RS Portland former recruiters understood this battle better than most, and were regularly recognized for their recruiting efforts, most notably by former Secretary of Defense, General Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis, USMC (Ret.). In an effort to pay homage to the heritage and significance of the presentation of a sword to a deserving Marine, the War Dawgs decided to conduct the official presentation of the NCO Sword at RS Portland’s annual Marine Corps Birthday Ball.

The Marine Corps Birthday Ball is a celebration of Marine Corps history and traditions, and is an event that is well known to the Wine Country Marines, who host a remarkable ball and charity fundraiser in Sonoma, California at an historic winery in the fall each year to commemorate the occasion. The Wine Country Marines Birthday Ball, in addition to its stunning location inside the barrel room of a winery, is known to host an impressive cadre of guests, including, in 2015, General Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis, who served as the Wine Country Marines Guest of Honor at the 240th Marine Corps Birthday at Jacuzzi Winery in Sonoma, California.

Three generations of RS Portland Commanding Officers with General James Mattis, USMC (Ret.)

The Marine Corps Birthday Ball represents where the Marine Corps started and where it is now, while giving us a glimpse of the past, present, and future of the United States Marine. RS Portland recruiters knew there was no more fitting event than a birthday ball to recognize Sgt Bivens’ outstanding efforts to continue to inspire the best and brightest of America’s youth to earn the title “Marine.”

At a Marine Corps Birthday Ball, there is a tremendous amount of tradition during the cake-cutting ceremony associated with the cutting, presenting, passing, and consuming of the birthday cake. The first piece of cake is presented to the Guest of Honor. The second piece is presented to the oldest Marine in the command, signifying the honor and respect accorded to experience and seniority. Upon receiving the second piece of cake, the oldest Marine will in turn pass it on to the youngest Marine in attendance, signifying the passing of experience and knowledge from the old to the young of our Corps. 

RS Portland Presentation Ceremony of the 2022 Recruiter of the Year NCO Sword

As best explained in an excerpt from the Official Marine Corps Birthday Ball Script, “the birthday cake is traditionally cut with the Mameluke sword, as a reminder that we are a band of warriors, committed to carrying the sword, so that our nation may live in peace.” Keeping with the tradition of the oldest Marine passing a piece of birthday cake to the youngest Marine, Master Sergeant Horton, the 1993 RS Portland Recruiter of the Year and 1994 12th Marine Corps District Noncommissioned Officer in Charge of the year, knighted and presented Sgt Bivens with his well-deserved NCO sword in recognition of his achievement as the 2022 Recruiter of the Year.

The Wine Country Marines, a California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation recognized under Internal Revenue Code Section 501 (c) (3), is a patriotic organization of Marines and friends of the Corps dedicated to perpetuating both the ethos and esprit de corps of the United States Marines. The Wine Country Marines are incredibly proud of LtCol “Duke” Cameron’s efforts to further their mission to carry on charitable and educational activities through the fundraising, donation, and presentation of the RS Portland 2022 Recruiter of the Year NCO Sword. This effort is one of many across the San Francisco Bay, Napa Valley Wine Country, Pacific Northwest, and beyond which the Wine Country Marines are making to further Operation Semper Fi and bring support, recognition, and camaraderie to active duty military and veteran service members in need.

BZ, “Duke” and Sgt Bivens!


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