WASHINGTON, D.C. --
On the morning of August 11, 2023, an atmosphere of reverence enveloped the historic grounds of Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., as Marines conducted final rehearsals and preparations for the renowned, staff non-commissioned officer-led Friday Evening Parade.
For more than 60 years, the "Oldest Post of the Corps" has displayed the pride, professionalism, and esprit de corps of Marines throughout the world. Since July 1957, Marine Barracks Washington has conducted Evening Parades featuring music and precision marching, and entwined with rich military traditions such as tattoo, retreat, and lowering of the colors. This evening's parade is unique because it features all enlisted Marines – especially staff non-commissioned officers – who take charge and fill every billet, including billets characteristically held by officers.
"Operating in tandem with every Marine Officer is their senior enlisted advisor," said Staff Sgt. Ryan Vallozzi, platoon sergeant, Bravo Company, Marine Barracks Washington. "As a command team, we are expected to take the fight together. I feel the enlisted parade displays this relationship perfectly; that in the absence of their officer, the enlisted Marines can operate within the intent and complete the assigned task with identical precision and discipline."
"The enlisted parade represents the pinnacle of the Marine Corps' small unit leadership and development. This parade provides enlisted Marines an opportunity to lead from the front without direct supervision, displaying the trust and confidence earned through countless hours of mentorship and rehearsal." Gunnery Sgt. Tyler Van Dam, the assistant drill master at Marine Barracks Washington
Vallozzi, an infantry unit leader and native of Santa Clarita, California, enlisted in the Marine Corps in October 2013. Tonight, he will lead 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, marching in place of his platoon commander, Capt. Caroline Fender.
"The trust and teamwork required to lead Marines and accomplish the mission are integral to the officer-enlisted relationship," said Fender. "The staff non-commissioned officer-led parade is truly symbolic of that. Tonight is about highlighting the professionalism, proficiency, and devotion to duty of our enlisted Marines. I could not be more proud to serve alongside Staff Sgt. Vallozzi."
Across the storied deck stands the parade staff, who will lead the battalion in conducting the ceremony. Gunnery Sgt. Tyler Van Dam, the assistant drill master at Marine Barracks Washington, is among the enlisted staff marchers.
"The enlisted parade represents the pinnacle of the Marine Corps' small unit leadership and development," said Van Dam. "This parade provides enlisted Marines an opportunity to lead from the front without direct supervision, displaying the trust and confidence earned through countless hours of mentorship and rehearsal."
Van Dam, a Marine musician and native of Los Angeles, California, enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2010. In addition to serving as a musician for the Marine Forces Pacific Band, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego Band, and the 1st Marine Division Band, Van Dam served as a Drill Instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego from 2017 to 2020. This evening, he will march in place of Capt. Christie Farmer, parade adjutant.
"The officer-enlisted relationship is a delicate balance of listening and learning from each other to enable the Marines under your charge to succeed," said Farmer. "Gunnery Sgt. Van Dam has been able to foster his experiences as a drill instructor and assistant drill master to go from teacher to student for this parade. His humility and unwavering dedication to honing his craft will serve him well in his performance tonight."
Yesterday, Sgt. Maj. Carlos A. Ruiz assumed the duties and responsibilities of the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps from Sgt. Maj. Troy E. Black during a relief and appointment ceremony at Marine Barracks Washington. This evening, Sgt. Maj. Ruiz will return to the parade deck to host the staff non-commissioned officer-led ceremony.
"As I sat and watched the Marines execute a flawless performance during the relief and appointment ceremony, I knew I was experiencing something special from our enlisted Marines at Marine Barracks Washington," said Sgt. Maj. Carlos A. Ruiz, 20th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. "I saw a timeless parade executed on historic grounds by Marines who upheld the prestigious and highest standards of the Marine Corps. This evening, I will host the enlisted-led Evening Parade with three former Sergeants Major of the Marine Corps as our guests of honor. This is a tradition I am absolutely proud to share with our former standard bearers, and I will stand proud in front of the formation of enlisted Marines who are representing the backbone of the Corps."