Quality to the Corps
October 2021 Issue
by Jacie Elizabeth Millen
Photography by Lance Cpl. Michelle Brudnicki
Beneath her United States Marine Corps Campaign Cover, Sergeant Major Sigrid Rivera stands—a woman structured from discipline, hard work, and passion. With pristine posture, a tight, slicked back bun, and not an emblem out of place, Sigrid is nothing short of extraordinary. With a kind heart and a modest disposition, she won’t brag about her incredible accomplishments, but that is why I am here.
Born in Puerto Rico, Sigrid was raised by a powerful mother who assiduously instilled a hard working mindset, the need to be a good citizen, and that reputation is above everything. “She wanted me to attract the right people at the right time. She stood strong in her morals when raising us; there was no room to maneuver around her rules. When I joined the Marines, I felt like it reinforced my childhood,” Sigrid said.
As a sophomore, Sigrid and her family relocated in 1995 to West Palm Beach, Florida, where she finished high school and realized her dreams were becoming more and more a reality. “When I was 4 years old there was a commercial for the Marines showing a man fighting a lava monster and just kicking his butt. You know when you’re a child, it looks awesome, and in that moment, I knew I wanted to be that awesome,” she laughed.
Today, Sigrid stands as 4th Battalion Sergeant Major, a senior enlisted advisor, and an expert in recruit training. She also was a drill instructor from 2011-2014.
Her kick-butt journey began in 2000 when she enlisted. Joining November Company, she completed her basic training at Parris Island, where she is stationed now. After completing the Crucible, a 54-hour day and night challenge completed with little to no food or sleep, she graduated and was awarded an emblem all Marines wear with pride, The Eagle, Globe and Anchor. Once that emblem was placed in her left hand, she was all in.
Her story has become quite a novel. A few chapters include: Finishing Marine Security Guard School in the top five percent; being hand-selected as the first female to serve at the embassy in Beijing, China, becoming an expert in her career of training recruits, to the point they surpass her, and becoming a Force Fitness Instructor, all while impacting every single Marine she has met. “How awesome is it that I get to make Marines for a living? My goal is to not only make them better Marines, but better people—constantly striving for greatness,” Sigrid said.
“The Marines have given me a sense of home away from home. There are lifelong relationships created between Marines because we preach togetherness, unity, and to take care of each other and be one big family. The connections between Marines are instant, whether you’re 20 years old or 80, because we are all trained on the same core values and have the same foundation,” Sigrid explained. “The ultimate goal is to make quality citizens, not only Marines. We expect more from each other and push each other to be the best we can be,” she added.
In 2008, Sigrid completed a course in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor Training course to become a Marine Martial Arts Instructor Trainer, a class that only three females at that time had completed. Sigrid also holds the title of the only female in the Corps with the rank of 4th degree Martial Arts Instructor Trainer. Go back and reread that sentence. I am talking about the entire Marine Corps. Yeah.. she’s that bad, and she has the arms to prove it! In fact, male or female, there are only 13-15 Marines total with the rank of 4th degree Martial Arts Instructor Trainer.
Sigrid is breaking down barriers for women, but has immense respect for the women who came before her and paved the way. In 1918, the first female was enlisted into the Corps but only to do “safer, less involved” jobs. Now, females dominate their Marine duties alongside males. Sigrid knows how powerful being a woman in the Marines can be, but she claims herself as a Marine, period. No labels, no “girl” push-ups, and no comparison. When asked how many push-ups she can do, she simply stated, “All of them.” She pushes beyond the borders of any doubt or fear and does it with poise, respect, power and great pride.
Constantly Learning: Sigrid is currently enrolled in college to earn a Ph.D. in emergency management.
A Few of Her Favorite Things: Star Wars, Marvel movies, drawing (she’s crazy talented), running, and spending time with her BF and her sweet German Shepherd pup, Ripley.
Dinner and A Guest: We asked Sigrid who she would share a meal with if she could have dinner with anyone, and what she would have. She asked if she could choose two, and chose Jesus and Condoleezza Rice. (She has met Condoleezza Rice and thinks she is a genius. Sigrid said she would just sit there and listen!) Oh, and what is she eating? Protein, in the form of a juicy steak, and dessert is a must!