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Face of Defense: Wounded Warrior Continues Marine Corps Career

By Adele Uphaus-Conner, U.S. Marine Corps Training and Education Command

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va., July 19, 2016 — “This seemed like a good way to give back to the Marine Corps and thank them for letting me stick around after I got wounded,” said Marine Corps Master Sgt. Berle Sigman, a student in the Faculty Advisor Course at the Staff Noncommissioned Officer Academy here.

Sigman, who graduated from the three-week course June 29, was wounded in combat in October 2004 in Ramadi, Iraq. He had been in the Marine Corps for 11 years at that point and was platoon sergeant for Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines. The injury resulted in the loss of his leg.

Sigman “could have easily been medically retired from the Marine Corps,” said Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Amber Hecht, enlisted professional military education operations chief and staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the Faculty Development Course.

“But not only did he choose to continue to serve, he still wants to be a leader and give back to the institution and to the Marines,” Hecht added. “To watch this Marine fall down at [physical training] doing [high intensity tactical training] and get back up with his prosthetic leg twisted backwards and hear him joke, ‘Well, guess I better straighten myself out’ is amazing. He has so much of the warrior spirit.”

Love of Marine Corps

Sigman said he never considered leaving the Marine Corps. “Being a Marine is just one of those things that you love,” he said. Sigman received his first prosthetic leg in December 2004, only two months after the injury. Sigman said he was walking on his own by February 2005 and was “pretty much done” with physical therapy by early April of that year.

Exactly one year after his injury, he went back to work at Systems Command here.

He attributes his speedy recovery to having a sense of humor. Sigman also saluted the physical therapists at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and his family, friends and fellow Marines. “The commandant [Gen. Michael Hagee] and assistant commandant [Gen. William Nyland] visited every week. Marines take care of each other,” Sigman recalled.

Now, Sigman wants to help Marines achieve their full potential as a faculty advisor for the SNCO academies.

Helping Other Marines

“I hope I can open the door to other seriously injured guys,” he said. “I want to help them understand that any kind of adversity can be overcome -- it doesn’t have to be quite as obvious as my injury.”

“I think he has credibility,” Hecht said, indicating Sigman’s prosthetic leg.

As an faculty advisor, Sigman’s sphere of influence will be huge, Hecht said. She said that 1,000 students pass through the SNCO Academy’s sergeants courses annually -- and that’s just one of three courses the academy offers. The others are Career Course for staff sergeants and Advanced Course for gunnery sergeants.

Need For Faculty Advisors

“Some of the academies are sitting at only 67 percent manning,” Hecht said. “We are always looking for faculty advisors.”

Faculty advisors plan and lead exercise sessions and organize lessons and small group activities that must relate to all military occupational specialties and all parts of the Marine Air Ground Task Force, Hecht said. Faculty advisors also provide personal counseling and mentorship to their students, she added.

The schedule is busy, Hecht said, but the assignment offers many rewards, such as being in a non-deployable unit, being able to go home to family in the evenings and on weekends and holidays, being part of a close-knit community of faculty and staff who all have the same mission, and being able to educate and shape the Marine Corps’ future leaders.

Distribution channels: Military