A local resident picked up a major promotion last month.
At a ceremony in Columbus, Ohio at the Ohio National Guard headquarters on November 20, Lake Waynoka Chief of Security Gordon Ellis was promoted to Brigadier General of the U.S. Army, where he’s assumed the position of deputy commanding general-support of the 38th Infantry Division, based in Indianapolis, Ind.
Ellis’ promotion makes him a one-star general, and he’ll now work alongside Assistant Division Commander in charge of operations Scott Campbell of Kentucky, and underneath Major General David Wood. The promotion was approved by the U.S. Senate on December 11, 2014.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better ceremony,” Ellis said in a phone interview.
The path Ellis took that culminated in becoming a one-star general was very unconventional, according to Ellis.
Back in 1985, when he completed officer training and became a commissioned officer, only one percent of those commissioned would go on to be selected as a general officer. Ellis had an uphill battle, he explained, because he enlisted in the U.S. Army instead of coming through a cadet program such as the U.S. Army military academy at West Point, New York, or ROTC. Ellis instead went through Officer Candidate School, which is a 12-week long program held at Fort Benning, Ga.
Officers from the OCS probably produce the least amount of general officers,” Ellis said. “It’s fairly rare. You have to be in the army longer. It’s an interesting road from private to general.”
Because of this, Ellis never truly thought he would one day become a general officer.
“You know, I’m going to be candid,” Ellis said. “No, I didn’t expect it. I started out as a private and I had an opportunity to go to officer candidate school when I was young. But I never thought I would achieve general officer rank. I don’t think anyone who achieves senior leader rank can do that without the support and help of great soldiers, subordinates, and mentors. There were a lot of people that played a part in my ultimate success in the military. I want to give them credit. I’m a product of a sound mentor-ship and service provided by some great soldiers.”
Ellis was in the car with his wife, Jenny when he heard the news. She answered the phone and at the other end of the line was the Assistant Adjutant General for the Ohio Army National Guard, Major General John Harris.
“I thought ‘well this is something really good or really bad’,” Ellis said. “When she told me (I had been approved for promotion), I was quite surprised. You always assume someone else was going to be a general officer.”
To go full circle, Harris attended the promotion ceremony and presented Ellis with a plaque.
At the ceremony, Ellis was joined by his wife, his son Aaron, daughter Rebekah, brother George Ellis, George’s wife Sheila, and their daughter Shelby, Ellis’ father-in-law Kenny Craig, mother-in-law Joyce Craig, and sister-in-law Paige Craig.
Longtime friend and fellow Brigadier General Dana McDaniel, who is the city manager of Dublin, Ohio, also attended the ceremony.
Since learning of the promotion, Ellis has received plenty of feedback from those here in Brown County as well as those from his past days leading units while abroad.
One soldier in particular sent Ellis a note, saying he never forgot Ellis’ leadership during drills, as Ellis would do push ups and other punishments along with the soldiers he was leading. The soldier apologized for not making the ceremony, despite that soldier serving in Iraq currently.
I told him he’s got a good excuse to miss the ceremony,” Ellis said with a laugh. “It’s events like that when you realize you made an impact in somebody’s life. I always appreciate frankly when the people you’ve had the chance to command write a note like that, because it comes from the heart.”
In his new role, Ellis will be serving as a “traditional” guardsman, which means once a month he’ll have individual duty and training, and every summer for a two weeks he will likely report to the base in Indiana. The 38th Infantry Division has around 24,000 soldiers, and their mission is to keep the soldiers prepared in case they’re called-up for war.
“My duties now become much more focused on command and operations and logistics,” Ellis said. “My focus is more at the operational level at the division. We have a large staff that I work with.”
In addition to his work at Lake Waynoka, Ellis announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for Brown County Sheriff.