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Marine Corps Recruiting Command

Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

3280 Russell Road, 2nd Floor Quantico, Va. 22134
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Recruiting icon says goodby to Corps

By | 12th Marine Corps District | September 23, 2003

RECRUITING STATION SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- The Marine Corps is known as the nation's best.  For 228 years, the Corps has been making Marines and wining battles all the while building the elite force the world knows today.  Since 1968, MGySgt. Thomas P. Ellis, recruiter instructor, Recruiting Station San Diego, has made significant contributions to the Marine Corps.  He is the senior career recruiter in the nation.  Nobody else has been in the business of Marine Corps recruiting longer than Ellis.  For almost a quarter of a century, Ellis has been a key player in the successes of the Marine Corps Recruiting Command.
Looking back at a career with such longevity can only make a person admire his dedication, however, it is time for the recruiting icon to retire. 
"When it comes to our profession, it's definitely second to none," said Ellis.  "There is no occupation that can contend with the word, 'Marine,' which is synonymous with everything powerful and great."
He became a recruiter when an all-volunteer service was a new concept.  Seemingly, Ellis has helped make the Marines what it is today.
"He is one of the people who laid down the foundation of systematic recruiting," said MGySgt. Michael D. Buchanan, assistant recruiter instructor, RS San Diego.
While the majority of Ellis' career was spent serving as a recruiter, he has served in a variety of other billets.  Before becoming a recruiter for the 12th Marine Corps District, he spent more than a year in Vietnam as an anti-tank assault man.  After returning to the United States, Ellis actually left the Corps for four and a half years.  Only after realizing that he was missing something that only the Marines could provide, he reenlisted.
When Ellis came back, he was quickly promoted to sergeant and made a lateral move to the combat imagery field as a graphic artist.  He was then transferred to Recruiters School and graduated in July 1979, where he joined Team 12.  He began his career as a canvassing recruiter and moved very quickly through the ranks and billets.
All who know him, seem to recognize that he has a wealth of knowledge in the world of recruiting.  He's always been known as the go-to guy in this business.
"Recruiting Station San Diego is really lucky to have had the expertise of a Marine with so much dedication and enthusiasm," said Buchanan.
He's known for a no-nonsense approach and has a maxim of, "inspect what you expect and the results are evident."
Recruiting is commonly referred to as a 30-day battle.  In that aspect, Ellis is a battlefield commander.  His credibility amongst the recruiters and the command is unsurpassed.  When he speaks, people listen said Capt. Christopher R. Windisch, executive officer, RS San Diego.
"I am self-motivated," said the 54-year-old Ellis.  "I wake up in the morning asking myself, 'who do I want to help today?'  If you can't answer that question, it's a wasted day.  It's like Michael Jackson's hit song, 'I'm starting with the man in the mirror, I'm asking him to change, if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.'"
There are three unique leadership traits that the seasoned recruiter uses and would like to pass on, according to Ellis.  "One, is to take two things from everyone you come in contact with.  The first thing to take is how to do things right.  The second is to how to do things wrong.  Two, is to lead from the front and become a player's coach not an armchair quarterback.  Last but not least, do all you can to become part of the solution and not the problem."
Ellis could have retired and left the Marine Corps a long time ago, but he never wanted to.  It has now come to a point where he doesn't have a choice.
"I would stay in 40 years if I could," said Ellis.  "I'm not invalid or senile, and I still have a unique love for recruiting.  I can still contribute to the mission of any RS or RSS."
Even though the dedicated Marine would stay to help, he knows that RS San Diego will be fine without him.  He knows the recruiters have what it takes to lead the station to the next level. 
"He has been a great mentor for decades, not only for new recruiters, but other career recruiters," said Maj. Dan Wilson, commanding officer, RS San Diego.  "Over the past two years it's been a privilege knowing and serving with him.  I've relied heavily on his sage advice.  He's been a great asset to this command and will be sorely missed.  His impact on the future leadership of the Marine Corps will be felt for generations to come.  I salute him for his selfless dedication as a Marine, and I wish him the very best in his well deserved retirement."
On a parting note, Ellis would like to leave one small piece of advice for recruiters.
"All I would like to say to the recruiters is believe in your self-worth and embrace the curriculum presented to you for survival, because it works.  Without a doubt, I know the skills are definitely within you."


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