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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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Leadership key to SDI success

By PFC Jess N. Levens | | November 22, 2002

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Many leaders have emerged in the Marine Corps.  Some lead by inspiring men, some by winning nearly impossible fights on the battlefield.  Others lead by showing compassion for their troops, and some lead merely by example.  A leader who must embody and live by these traits is a Marine Corps drill instructor.

So far in his tour Staff Sgt. Douglas B. Gress, senior drill instructor, Platoon 2119, Co. E, has trained Marines for seven "cycles,"  producing two honor platoons.

Gress, a 28-year-old Nebraska native, started out as an anti-tank assault specialist.  He entered the Marine Corps on the buddy program with a hometown friend.

His first duty station was Marine Corps Air/Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif.  He was part of Co. G. 

Once becoming a sergeant, Gress began to see a lack of motivation in some of his junior Marines toward drill and physical training.  So he decided to become a drill instructor to ensure new Marines kept an intense level of motivation.  He felt that if he could train Marines from the start, they would share his level of motivation.

"I felt that I could have an influential impact on young Marines," he said.  "I try to put out the best basically trained Marines possible through firm discipline, but also by caring for the recruits.  That is my sole mission.  I try to instill as much leadership and respect as possible for the short time that I influence the recruits directly."

Gress said he has a firm hand when it comes to discipline, but as a senior drill instructor, he must also show compassion and a sense of understanding.

"He's awesome," said PFC Steven J. Trogden, guide, Platoon 2119, Co. E. "He cares about every recruit like they're his own sons."

Gress always puts out 110 percent, according to Trogden. 

He personifies the core values (honor, courage, and commitment).  He admits he loves his job.

According to Gress, he was inspired by several, more experienced, drill instructors to excel in his duties as a drill instructor.

"Leadership is not something that can be inherited over generations.  It must be learned.  I feel that I have worked hard to get to the leadership level I'm at right now," said Gress.

His wife, Stacy, and his 7-month-old daughter, Alexis, have shown him how he can be gentle.

"My family has taught me how to be compassionate and caring, which I have applied to my platoons as a senior drill instructor as well as my home life," said Gress.

"Staff Sgt. Gress treats us like his own family," said Trogden.  "He's firm but fair.  It shows in every aspect of his leadership, whether it is in physical training, drill practice, or even uniform maintenance."

Gress is not just a leader for the recruits, though.  He also is a leader of other drill instructors, according to Staff Sgt. Derrick Tolston, drill instructor, Platoon 2119, Co. E.  This is Tolston's second cycle working with Gress. 

"It's just impressive," said Tolston.  "He taught me more about being a Marine and a drill instructor than I ever learned in Drill Instructor School.  He's helped me sharpen my drill and hone my basic drill instructor skills.

"He places a lot of faith in other people," added Tolston.  "He doesn't try to control the actions of his junior drill instructors.  He is also impressive as a mentor.  He helps the other drill instructors with drill, physical training, morale, and just to be better individuals."

Gress leads by example, according to Tolston.

"His attention to detail is simply amazing.  If a rack isn't made properly, he can see it from across the squad bay.  If a Marine's ribbon isn't correctly placed, he can spot it from a mile away.

"His purpose is to take care of recruits, but he also takes care of his drill instructors," added Tolston.

Gress also conducts drill with the utmost diligence, according to Trogden.  "When we practice drill, he almost never makes mistakes.  It's practically perfect," said Trogden.

"His leadership abilities shine through any situation that arises.  He is a credit to the drill field and to the Marine Corps as a whole.  I've met many drill instructors.  Staff Sgt. (Gress), he has led me to be the best Marine and man I can be," said Tolston.

Even Gress' office reflects his outstanding performance.  Drill trophies and awards of merit grace his walls. 

His campaign cover and black duty belt sit proudly on his desk.  The racks are made perfectly and there's not a speck of dust anywhere.  His ribbons majestically beam off of his shirt as if to say, "I've led Marines here."

The recruits of Co. E take their final stroll across the parade deck.  Gress marches his platoon into the San Diego sun; bellowing cadences all the way. 

He's just a senior drill instructor leading from the front.


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