CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan --
Sgt. Maj. Gonzalo Vasquez assumed responsibilities as the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit sergeant major during a relief and appointment ceremony at the Camp Hansen Gymnasium, May 13.
Vasquez came from his previous posting as the director of the Staff Non-Commissioned Officer Academy in Okinawa, and takes over for outgoing Sgt. Maj. Jayme Winders, who will assume duties as the Marine Forces Korea sergeant major.
“It is a pleasure to take over where Sergeant Major Winders left off and continue the tradition of excellence with the 31st MEU,” said Vasquez. “I wanted to be a MEU Sergeant Major ever since my first deployment with a MEU back in 1987.”
As the Sergeant Major of the MEU, Vasquez will be the senior enlisted advisor of more than 250 Marines and Sailors with the command element. In addition to leading the enlisted members of the command element, Vasquez also oversees the sergeants major of the 31st MEU’s major subordinate elements, including Battalion Landing Team, Air Combat Element, and Logistics Combat Element.
Born in Belize, South America, Vasquez enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating high school in 1983. After attending recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego and Infantry Training School at Camp Geiger, N.C., Vasquez was assigned to 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force, in Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 1985.
“I fell in love with ‘MAGTF’ry,’ ‘amphibiosity’ and the Marine Expeditionary Unit on my first round-the-world cruise on the USS Okinawa,” Vasquez commented. “Although many new technologies, uniforms and weaponry have changed how we may look and what resources we have, they haven’t changed the essence of who we are over these past years. The 31st MEU is, and always has been, one of our nations’ premier forces-in-readiness. With the professional, dedicated Marines we have in this organization, we will always accomplish great things.”
From 1987 to 1992, he served with 1st Recon Battalion, I MEF, at Camp Pendleton. During his 5-year tour in California, he deployed on three Western Pacific deployments, including an eight-month deployment in support of operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, 1990-1991.
In Oct. 1992, Vasquez was assigned to Marine Security Guard Battalion, Quantico, Va. During his time on MSG duty, he served at MSG Detachments in Cameroon and Luxembourg.
Returning to 1st Recon Bn. in June 1995, Vasquez served as a team leader, company gunnery sergeant and training chief. While assigned, he deployed with the 15th MEU and also served as Force Protection non-commissioned officer in charge, while in Saudi Arabia.
In May 2002 he was promoted to the rank of first sergeant and received orders to 1st Force Service Support Group. During his tenure with 1st FSSG, Vasquez in four company first sergeant billets and deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from Jan. to Sept. 2003.
In Dec. 2003 he was assigned as the Combat Logistics Battalion 15 Sergeant Major and completed two Western-Pacific deployments with the 15th MEU.
Vasquez says that his past deployments will help him in this new role as MEU Sergeant Major.
"Experience is a great teacher,” Vasquez said. “With many experiences to draw from, we can continue to build our organization better and stronger, and face the challenges of the future.”
Vasquez arrived in Okinawa, Japan in Aug. 2007 and served as the Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron 18 sergeant major from Sept. 2007 to Dec. 2008. He was then appointed as the Director of the Okinawa Staff Non-Commissioned Officer Academy in Dec. 2008, where he served until his current billet with the 31st MEU.
“I will be approachable, available and relevant to everyone in this command,” Vasquez said. “With our high operational tempo, and constantly transitioning units, it is important to maintain an open door and to get the job done right the first time. I look forward to serving, with all my energy and all my efforts, every man and women in the MEU.”
The 31st MEU is the nation’s only continually forward-deployed MEU, and remains a force-in-readiness in the Asia Pacific region.