Marine Corps bids farewell to highest-ranking Hispanic officer
By Sgt. Jimmie Perkins and Staff Sergeant Marc Ayalin
| Marine Corps Recruiting Command | September 17, 2004
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. --
Brigadier General Walter B. Gaskin assumed command of Marine Corps Recruiting Command (MCRC) this afternoon in a ceremony at the Lejeune Hall parade field here. Major General Christopher Cortez relinquished his final command and he retired after 33 years of service to the Marine Corps. Cortez retires as the highest-ranking Hispanic American currently serving in the Corps. During the ceremony, Cortez received the Distinguished Service Medal for his successful tour as the commanding general of MCRC.
"My time here at the Recruiting Command has been extremely rewarding as I have been blessed to lead some of the finest Marines our Corps has to offer," said Cortez. "For these last 25 months you have been nothing short of awesome."
Every month, since Cortez assumed command of MCRC in August of 2002, MCRC has successfully met its recruiting goals and has exceeded in attaining the required number of quality recruits. Under his command, the Marine Corps shipped more than 75,000 young men and women to recruit training.
During General Cortez's tenure, the Marine Corps faced a challenging recruiting environment as the Global War on Terrorism and Operation Iraqi Freedom progressed. However, Cortez's steady leadership refined and reinforced MCRC's approach to systematic recruiting while successfully accomplishing the mission. Other efforts and new programs, such as the Class of Tomorrow interactive CD-ROM, and the highly successful redesign of Marines.com, helped MCRC reach out to more young Americans while at the same time reducing costs and streamlining processes. Overall, through an aggressive approach to the challenges of the modern recruiting environment, Marine Corps recruiting led by Cortez succeeded and laid the foundation for continued success.
"The importance of recruiting to the Marine Corps can not be emphasized enough. It is as operational a command as we have, commanded in a superb style by one of the Corps' great Marines, Major General Cortez," said General James L. Jones, former Commandant and current Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, who presided over the ceremony. "Major General Cortez has been a steady and reliant leader of this vital force, and I can state confidently that Recruiting Command is now in the very able and careful hands of Walter Gaskin."
Gaskin recently served as the Chief of Staff for the Naval Striking and Support Forces in Southern Europe and as the Deputy Commanding General of Fleet Marine Forces Europe in Naples Italy. During his 30-year career, Gaskin, an infantry officer, has served in billets ranging from rifle platoon commander to battalion commander to Marine Expeditionary Unit commander. He also served as Commanding General of Training Command. Gaskin's previous recruiting experience includes being a Marine Officer Instructor at his alma mater, Savannah State University, and as an Assistant Officer Selection Officer within the 6th Marine Corps District.
"250 times since 1945, our Corps has been called on to send Marines into harms way, which averages out to once every 90 days," said Gaskin. "To meet these demanding needs of the Corps and the Nation, Marine Corps Recruiting Command is called upon to find the next successful generation of Marines. I appreciate the successful history of this command and I am ready to assume fully the responsibility for maintaining our success."
Cortez will officially be retired from the Marine Corps on December 31, leaving the Marine Corps with a long and distinguished career. Also entering the Marine Corps as an infantry officer, Cortez served in command of infantry Marines at the platoon, company, battalion and regimental levels. While Commanding Officer of 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, his unit deployed with the 7th Marine Expeditionary Brigade to Saudi Arabia, serving sequentially with 7th Marines and 3rd Marines during Operation Desert Shield and then with Task Force Ripper during Operation Desert Storm. Cortez also served as the Chief of Staff for I Marine Expeditionary Force, Assistant Division Commander for 1st Marine Division and Chief of Staff for Combined Coalition Joint Task Force, Kuwait. He also served as the Director, Strategy and Plans Division, Headquarters Marine Corps and as the Director for Operations at U.S. Pacific Command.
"I've been proud to wear this uniform. I am grateful my father came to America for the opportunities this great country offered to my family, and I am also grateful to the Marine Corps for the opportunities that it has offered me," said Cortez. "In my tour here I have seen who is coming into the Marine Corps and I am optimistic for our future. I see these young Marines go on to serve and fight successfully in Afghanistan and Iraq, and I am optimistic for our future."
While Cortez has not revealed his plans for after retirement his wife Leigh has a few things in mind.
"There is a reason that the person with the biggest smile on their face at retirement ceremonies is usually the spouse of the Marine," joked Mrs. Cortez. "But seriously, the Marine Corps has been so good to us for these many years and I can not thank the Marines enough. Now my first task is going to have to be to find Chris some work so I can get him out of the house. He has been a hard working Marine for so long, I don't think he will know what to do with himself in retirement."