California Native Leads The Few, Proud in Okinawa

California Native Leads The Few, Proud in Okinawa

Sgt Chad Nillo, top row, center, poses for a photo with his squad on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 9, 2016. Sgt Nillo is currently assigned to Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. Nillo has served with Alpha Co., BLT 1/5, 31st MEU, for the past 10 months and has had a great impact on the unit. Nillo is from Newark, California. Photo by LCpl Carl King, Jr.

CAMP HANSEN, Japan (January 9, 2016) – Back in 1779, a Marine Corps recruiting ad in the Providence Gazette read, "The Continental ship Providence, now lying at Boston, is bound on a short cruise, immediately; a few good men are wanted to make up her complement."

From the beginning, the Marine Corps has been looking for those select individuals who have what it takes to be a warrior and a leader of Marines. 

Sgt Chad Nillo, a squad leader with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is one of those few good men they've been looking for.

Nillo was born in Newark, California. When he enlisted into the Marine Corps straight out of high school, he thought the entire Marine Corps was strictly infantry. 

"I didn't realize that the Marine Corps had other jobs until the end of boot camp when I heard my fellow Marines in my platoon getting their (Military Occupational Specialties)," said Nillo. 

It didn't matter to Nillo. He still knew that being an infantry Marine is what he wanted to do.

Fast forward eight years. Nillo has deployed twice with the 31st MEU and was also an instructor at The Basic School. Nillo has served as a squad leader with the company for the last year and has had a great impact on the Marines he's serving with. 

"I've had a lot of squad leaders since I've been here, and Sgt Nillo has been the one that's taught me the most," said LCpl Kevin Cravey, an automatic rifleman with Alpha Co., BLT 1/5, 31st MEU.

"Whenever we do squad internal things he treats us like men instead of treating us like junior Marines who don't know anything."

Nillo said from the experience he's gained as a squad leader he knows what it takes to be a leader.

"I think the impact I have on the junior Marines is not only setting the standards for training, but also affecting their morale," said Nillo. "The hardest part of being a leader is connecting with each individual Marine. You've got to understand the differences and the ways you can actually impact them and convey things to them."

Being a leader in the Marine Corps infantry is nothing like being a leader in the civilian sector. Infantry leaders not only teach people things but also have to show no weakness and be proficient when under extreme situations. 

"The field sucks for everybody, but when I look at him I never see it," said Cravey, a native of Cedar City, Utah. "When I see Sgt Nillo looking unbothered during a long hike, it inspires me to keep going because I want to be like that."

Nillo is not only liked by junior Marines, but respected by his leaders. 

"As a married man with kids, Sgt Nillo is responsible, a great father, a great husband and overall a great Marine," said SSgt Charles Higgins, a platoon sergeant with Alpha Co., BLT 1/5, 31st MEU. "I believe if he were to stay in, when he moves up to (staff noncommissioned officer), he'll be a solid leader.

As a squad leader, Nillo acts as the link between his junior Marines and the SNCO's and officers leading them. 

"As a squad leader, he's that voice to the staff noncommissioned officers and officers on the enlisted level," said Higgins, a native of Columbia Heights, Virginia. "He directly impacts morale."

Though Nillo knows he has a great impact on junior Marines and has gained a great deal of knowledge from his eight years in the Marines Corps, he will continue to learn and grow.

"I think the most important thing to understand is that there is always more to learn, and you'll never know it all," said Nillo.

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