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(Right to left) Colonel Jason Bohm, commanding officer, 5th Marine Regiment, Sgt. Maj. Clifford Wiggins, sergeant major, 5th Marines, and Sgt. Maj. Alberto Ruiz, former sergeant major, 5th Marines, salute Marines and sailors as they conduct a pass and review during a relief, appointment and retirement ceremony at the Camp San Mateo helicopter landing pad here, Sept. 6, 2013. Marines and sailors of the Fighting Fifth bid farewell to Ruiz who retired after 30 years of service after relinquishing his post to Wiggins during the ceremony. Wiggins served as the sergeant major of 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion before assuming his current post. Ruiz is a Laredo, Texas, native, Bohm is an Oyster Bay, N.Y., native, and Wiggins is a Cincinnati native.

Photo by Sgt. Alfred V. Lopez

Corps’ most decorated regiment welcomes new sergeant major

11 Sep 2013 | Sgt. Alfred V. Lopez

Marines and sailors serving with the 5th Marine Regiment bid farewell to a 30-year veteran, Sgt. Maj. Alberto Ruiz, and welcomed their newest senior enlisted Marine, Sgt. Maj. Clifford Wiggins, during a relief, appointment and retirement ceremony at the Camp San Mateo helicopter landing pad here, Sept. 6.

The Fighting Fifth honored Ruiz, a Laredo, Texas, native, for his outstanding years of service after he relinquished his position to Wiggins, a native of Cincinnati.

“We’re sad to say goodbye to such an outstanding leader as Sgt. Maj. Ruiz,” said Col. Jason Bohm, commanding officer, 5th Marines. “But, we’re also glad to welcome someone of the same caliber as him.”

Bohm, a native of Oyster Bay, N.Y., noted during his speech that both Marines were previously appointed to 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion. before assuming their post with the Corps’ most decorated regiment.

“They really have a good stock of sergeants major there at 3rd Tracks,” Bohm said to the crowd with a smile.

Ruiz enlisted in the Marine Corps during February 1984 and reported to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., for recruit training. He served with 1st and 3rd Battalions, 1st Marines; Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division; and 1st Intelligence Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force. He also served with 5th Battalion, 11th Marines; 9th Communication Battalion, I MEF; and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 268, 3rd Marine Aircraft Group.

“Sergeant Maj. Wiggins and I have had a pretty identical career, and I feel like he’s been following me around the Marine Corps,” Ruiz said. “I know he’s going to do great things for the Marines here, especially because he has an infantry background.”

Ruiz served combat tours in Kuwait, Haditha, Mogadishu and Al Asad. He is a veteran of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, and Operations United Shield and Restore Hope II.

Ruiz’s personal decorations include the Bronze Star with Combat Distinguished Device, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal with numeral 4, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Gold star in lieu of second award, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and Combat Action Ribbon with Gold star in lieu of second award.

“I’m humbled that they did this ceremony for me,” Ruiz said. “But it’s not about me today, it’s about the Marines welcoming Sgt. Maj. Wiggins into the Fifth Marines family.”

Wiggins said he’s humbled to be able to take the reigns of a historical regiment from Ruiz, and he plans to improve the already impressive quality of the Marines.

“I’m truly honored to serve with the Corps’ most decorated regiment, which I’ve learned a lot about during the past week thanks to Sgt. Maj. Ruiz,” Wiggins said. “I want to bring them to be brilliant in the basics of being a Marine and to be able to add to this already honorable legacy.”