Sgt Jonathan Gillis: Winning Tomorrows Battles with the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab

Sgt Jonathan Gillis: Winning Tomorrows Battles with the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab

Sgt Jonathan Gillis (left) and another Marine from 2nd Marine Division set up the MK-19 grenade launcher on a tripod at range G-3 during the Advanced Machine Gunners Course aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., April 30, 2015. In order to learn a new engagement method previously only employed by mortarmen, the Marines shot the MK-19 grenade launcher from behind a berm at targets that were not visible to them so that they could fire at the enemy without being in harm's way. Photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron Fiala.

For Machine Gunner Sergeant Jonathan Gillis, the journey to winning battles includes a mix of traditional combat mastery and a commitment to innovation.

On October 19, Sgt Gillis took part in an Ask A Marine Chat with Marine Corps Recruiting Command's Facebook audience to answer questions ranging from the path to enlistment to how the Warfighting Lab uses emerging technology to drive innovation at home and abroad.

In January, Sgt Gillis will join the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, which identifies ways to meet the challenges of future operating environments, as the Commander's Special Advisor for Science, Technology and Experimentation.

Sgt Gillis admitted he didn't always see a career for himself in the military but changed his mind after learning more about the bond all Marines share.

"I started to meet Marine veterans at Georgetown University, where I was a student at the time," Sgt Gillis said. "I was blown away by their confidence and intelligence, but also by the bond that they all seemed to share even though they had not worked together directly during their careers."

Now, approaching his 3rd year as a Marine Corps Machine Gunner, Sgt Gillis told the Marine Corps Recruiting Command Facebook audience that there are multiple ways to serve as a Marine.

"I actually graduated from college before I enlisted, and I have used my education very frequently even as an enlisted Marine," he told the community. "There are a lot of great skills that you can learn in college that will help you in your career, regardless of whether you want to go officer or enlisted. If you want to be an officer, though, you will need to go to college first."

After graduating in 2013, Sgt Gillis enlisted in the Marine Corps, spending the first two years deployed to Norway and Romania as part of a combined anti-armor team (CAAT platoon), before returning to serve as the Color Sergeant for II Marine Expeditionary Force. For his next role, Sgt Gillis is will explore new technology that will one-day help keep other Marines safe.

"In the infantry, you develop a really unique bond with your platoon, so you end fighting for them first and foremost. The guys that I worked with when I was at 2d Battalion, 2d Marines are some of the closest friends that I have ever had, so they are always at the forefront of my mind when it comes to work," Sgt Gillis said. In fact, my work […] over the past few months has always been motivated by my desire to see those guys operate with the best gear possible."

Through the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, Sgt Gillis will help develop or leverage new technologies that will help ensure success on the battlefields of the future. 

"Drones have the potential to add dozens of new capabilities, including terrain analysis, video surveillance, and unmanned resupply. In the future, they may very well carry machine guns and missiles at the company or battalion level," he told the community. "3D printing can also help us cut weight, so we have a number of people working on using it to relieve some of the weight that infantry Marines carry around in the field."

Whether fighting for his fellow Marines, his family or his community, Sgt Gillis said it's the support from a strong network that keeps him motivated.

"That network is what keeps me going. Military life can be difficult for your family, so I do my best to make sure that my fiancée and my family know that their sacrifices allow me to important work in the Marines," he said.

Following his time with the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, Sgt Gillis plans to join the Reserves and continue to work with the Marine Corps while pursuing a Master's degree is Security Studies from Tufts' Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

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