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Sgt. Maj. Joy Kitashima: The Trailblazing Leader of III Marine Expeditionary Force

On Tuesday, Sgt. Maj. Joy Kitashima became the senior enlisted leader of III Marine Expeditionary Force. She succeeded Sgt. Maj. Eric Cook, who will be the new sergeant major for Marine Corps Forces Pacific.

Sgt. Maj. Joy Kitashima holds an award citation during a ceremony at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, on June 23, 2022. (Sgt. Kayla V. Staten/Marine Corps)


The III Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF) is one of the three main forces in the United States Marine Corps, responsible for operations in the Pacific region. With nearly 19,000 Marines and sailors stationed in Okinawa, Japan, and approximately 3,200 on mainland Japan and 5,000 in Hawaii, III MEF plays a crucial role in Marine Corps strategy in the Pacific.


Its mission includes everything from disaster relief and humanitarian aid to combat operations. The III MEF is currently commanded by Lt. Gen. James Bierman Jr. and its newly appointed sergeant major Sgt. Maj. Joy Kitashima, the first woman to hold the position in the Marine Corps will serve as the senior enlisted advisor to Lt. Gen. Bierman.


Sgt. Maj. Kitashima, a Bloomington, Indiana, native, enlisted in 1996 and previously served as sergeant major for multiple Marine units, including Marine Air Control Squadron 4, 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, and 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. She also deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.


Sgt. Maj. Kitashima has received numerous awards, including the Meritorious Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, and National Defense Medal. She is the first female force-level sergeant major in the Marine Corps.


Wine Country Marines would like to extend a heartfelt congratulations to Sgt. Maj. Kitashima, we know the III MEF is in very good hands.

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