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U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Jessica Larsen, the 1st Marine Division Band drum major, instructs band members during rehearsal at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 24, 2023. Larsen’s first duty station was at the Blue Diamond as a lance corporal saxophone instrumentalist, and now after three years as a drill instructor, she has returned for a second tour. Larsen is a native of Saint Donatus, Iowa. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Cameron Hermanet)

Photo by Cpl. Cameron Hermanet

Faces of the Blue Diamond: Staff Sgt. Jessica Larsen

23 Feb 2023 | Cpl. Cameron Hermanet Marines Music

Although Larsen did not initially see a future in the Marine Corps, she followed her gut and enlisted in 2012 as a saxophone instrumentalist for the Marine Corps band. Upon graduating military occupational specialty school in Virginia Beach, Virginia, she received orders to the 1st Marine Division Band at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.

As an 18 year old and a new Marine, Larsen was shy and very reserved, but as she grew into a well-rounded junior Marine she gained the confidence she needed to flourish.

“Looking back, I am so proud of the confidence I had,” said Larsen. “I knew what I wanted and needed and I wasn’t afraid to say it. This gave me so many opportunities and led to this trust from my senior leaders to be able to do these things. They gave me great examples of what I wanted to be as I moved up in the Marine Corps.”

Moving up the ranks in the Marine Corps can be daunting. Luckily, Larsen knew exactly how she wanted to lead when her time came. She knew she did not want to be a ‘do what I say not what I do’ leader. Instead, she wanted to be a leader who led by example and who Marines could look up to and be inspired by.

“In life we are going to be around a lot of people, and naturally we are going to influence those people," explained Larsen. "But every day we have a choice whether that influence is going to be positive or negative. As Marines, it is our duty to do good by those we are around.”

Larsen’s next opportunity to set an example for those around her was as a drill instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. She reported to drill instructor school in April 2018.

“I’ve always wanted to be a drill instructor,” explained Larsen. “Ever since I saw my drill instructors stand up, they really emulated what I thought it meant to be a Marine.”

Her time as a drill instructor was relentless and challenging, however, it prepared her for her current role as a drum major.

“It teaches you a lot of attention to detail, having the energy to do things even when you don’t want to do them and having the ability to think on the fly.” These are all things that are crucial as a drum major, according to Larsen.

Returning to the Blue Diamond after drill instructor duty opened an array of opportunities for Larsen. She attended the unit leader course where she learned how to be a drum major, how to conduct, how to arrange Marines and how to lead rehearsals. Larsen was also afforded the opportunity to be the drum major for the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, January 2023. Here, she was the first female to be the drum major for a composite Marine band drawn from all over the West Coast. This band was made up of Marines from the 1st MARDIV Band, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Band and Marine Band San Diego.

“I felt this sense of accomplishment that I got to do something no woman has ever done in the Marine Corps and I accredit that to the women that came before me,” Larsen said.

Currently, Larsen continues to lead the 1st MARDIV Band and plans on re-enlisting when she can. She says she loves what she does too much to get out.

“If I could say anything to my younger self it would be push the envelope, do the work, take the risk, take the challenge and see what happens,” said Larsen. “Anything is possible.”

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