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U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Russell B. Cowan, left, a recruiter with Recruiting Station San Diego, Calif., 12th Marine Corps District, and Gunnery Sgt. Tristan Wiggin, right, a recruiter with Recruiting Station Tampa, Fl., 6th Marine Corps District stand by to receive the award for Recruiter of the Year and First Runner-up, respectively, at the National Museum of The Marine Corps, Triangle, Va., February 8, 2024. The award was given to recognize the best of those who scour the nations landscape seeking out those who will take their place upon the yellow footprints. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Rachaelanne Woodward)

Photo by Sgt. Rachaelanne Woodward

Recruiters of the Year Recognized at the Commandant’s Combined Awards Ceremony

23 Feb 2024 | Sgt. Levi Voss Marine Corps Recruiting Command

The sun shined throughout the National Museum of the Marine Corps atrium in Triangle, Virginia, Illuminating the faces of a group of elite members of the United States Marine Corps and their families. They have traveled from their respective units and homes across the United States to accept an award from the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Christopher J. Mahoney.

On February 8, 2024, the NMMC hosted the Commandant’s Combined Award Ceremony, which aims to recognize and congratulate those who rove the nation’s streets seeking recruits who might take their place as the next generation of Marines; those who turn those recruits into Marines; those who make every Marine a rifleman; those who continue to uphold their core values, and those who stand the watch, ensuring security and stability in an unsecure and unstable world.

Of the Marines recognized, two were recognized for their duty in the field of recruiting the nation’s next generation of Marines: U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Russell B. Cowan, a recruiter with Recruiting Station San Diego, 12th Marine Corps District in San Diego, California, was presented with the “Recruiter of the Year” award, and Gunnery Sgt. Tristan Wiggin, a recruiter with RS Tampa, 6th MCD, in Tampa, Florida, received “First Runner-up.”

“These Marines performed their duties in an exemplary manner. Through superior knowledge, hard work, and perseverance,” said Gunnery Sgt. Courtney Brooks, the ceremonies narrator, “their stellar performance is inspirational and has earned them the respect and admiration of all Marines. Their initiative and dedication to duty reflected credit upon them and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States naval service.”

The award and subsequent ceremony made it clear that these extraordinary Marines continue to lead, shape, and build the future of their Corps. Moving forward, winning this award sets the standard. As these Marines continue with their career, their past as recruiters will forever have changed their future as Marines.

“Coming from an aviation background, I was working long hours there as well,” said Wiggin. “After the first few months of recruiting, you start understanding how to be an effective recruiter and what it takes to complete work. There’s a lot that goes into it as far as administrative work goes and so on.”

Given the recent recruiting climate, it would be easy for an individual to excuse themselves from such a tiresome burden as recruiting the next generation of the Marine Corps. However, these Marines continued to excel without excuse. They acknowledge the challenge they faced and yet learned from it in true Marine fashion.

“If there was a challenge, it would be that: balancing recruiting and family life,” said Cowan, “I overcame that challenge by putting in the work as soon as I got to the office so I could spend quality time with my family.”

His wife, Shenaya Cowan, agreed, “When he comes home, he gives us everything he has left in his tank.”

These Marines exemplify the best of the recruiting force and Marine Corps Recruiting Command as a whole, and while it’s easy to feel proud of this individual accomplishment, it certainly wasn’t achieved alone. Both Cowan and Wiggin adamantly attest to the necessity of their family’s support. Not only that, but the support of all the Marines around them was also needed.

“Teamwork is definitely key on this duty; when it comes to my family, my wife has been completely supportive of my goals going into this duty, and she is a huge reason I have been able to be successful out here,” said Cowan, “the other key part is when I first came out on this duty was the advice I got from the other recruiters that were there. If not for these individuals, I wouldn’t have been the Recruiter I am today.”

Not long after the awards presentation, Gunnery Sgt. Courtney Brooks, the ceremonies narrator, took a moment to thank the families of the Marines awarded, including Cowan and Wiggin. She asked that the families be recognized “for their sustained, unselfish, and devoted support in helping to make their Marine’s contribution to the Marine Corps and our nation possible. Would the family members of these awardees please stand? For sustained, faithful, and devoted service in support of your Marine’s continued success in the United States Marine Corps.”

What followed was a long applause which included a standing ovation.

It was further acknowledged that the awardees make tremendous contributions and sacrifices while executing unique duties within the Marine Corps, and the families’ unselfish support, understanding, and friendship in this mission have ensured their Marine had the opportunity to distinguish themselves as one of the Corps’ finest.

As the day full of recognition came to an end, the Marines, their families, and those in attendance carried on about their lives. Wiggin reflects on the biggest reward during his time as a Marine Corps Recruiter.

“Making each and every individual feel comfortable. Helping them understand that we are humans like them,” said Wiggin. “We are trying to help these young men and women succeed. Mentoring them and maintaining the Marine Corps culture.”

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