Story by Jason Bortz on 07/24/2019Command Master Chief Mario Rivers enlisted in the Navy in 1994 to see the world, and to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a Sailor. Twenty-three years later, he returned to his hometown of Pensacola, Florida, as the command master chief for Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola.
"I wanted to see the world and be part of the greatest Navy in the world," said Rivers. "I wanted to live out my dream."
Rivers was born and raised in Pensacola and grew up in a working class family. His father and uncles all served in the military, but it was his correctional officer mother that pushed him towards a career in the Navy.
"My mom was tough as nails, but she made me a better person," said Rivers. "She always pushed me to work hard in school, sports, and to pursue my dreams. She taught me everything about life, and the minute I confessed my love for the Navy at 5 years old, it became her bargaining tool."
For Rivers, that dream was to serve his country as a U.S. Sailor.
"I was drawn to the Navy at an early age and my Mom signed me up for a Navy mentorship program called Saturday Scholars," said Rivers. "I would meet with my mentor every Saturday and he would tell me about the Navy."
Rivers joined the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) program at Booker T. Washington High School. While in JROTC, he learned about the history of the Navy, which fueled his desire to become a Sailor. After graduating high school, Rivers enlisted in the Navy as an undesignated seaman recruit, which allowed him to learn about different jobs in the Navy before he selected a career to pursue. Rivers eventually decided on the ships serviceman rating.
"I always loved math and enjoyed the financial and logistical part of that rating," said Rivers.
Rivers excelled in the Navy and would serve onboard the USS Supply (AOE 6), USS Hayler (DD 997), USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) and USS San Jacinto. In 2012, he was selected to be a command master chief and joined the USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) in 2013. As fortune would have it, the man who joined the Navy to see the world returned to his hometown in 2018.
"I choose to come back to Pensacola," said Rivers, who holds a bachelor's degree in workforce education and a master's in human resources. "I wanted to give back to my community, contribute to the common good and be around family. I vividly remember Pensacola as a loving community; and for the most part, everyone worked extremely hard to provide their family with the American dream. Pensacola has blossomed into a big little city."
Rivers wants to continue his career in the Navy by seeking higher leadership positions. When he does decide to retire from the Navy, there is little doubt where Rivers plans to call home.
"Pensacola is my home and always will be," said Rivers, who is married and has three kids. "It's in my heart; it's a part of me."