MELVILLA HALL, DOMINICA -- U.S. Marine Maj. Robert Gill, class of 2004, put his minor in leadership from Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to use on the Caribbean island of Dominica in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria with the Joint Task Force - Leeward Islands as the officer in charge of the task force’s security element.
The task force is a U.S. military unit composed of Marines, Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen, and represents U.S. Southern Command’s primary response to the hurricanes that have affected the eastern Caribbean.
Gill and his Marines support JTF-LI by providing security and stability on the ground at landing zones and at the U.S. Department of State’s evacuation control center, assisting the voluntary departure of American citizens and others via JTF-LI air support from Dominica to the neighboring island of Martinique.
Gill is a reserve Marine with Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force - Southern Command, a unit deployed to Central America during the hurricane season. In the wake of Hurricane Irma, the unit was tasked to serve as the backbone U.S Southern Command’s response to that hurricane, and Hurricane Maria, in the Caribbean’s Leeward Isles.
When talking about the more than 70 Marines under his command on Dominica, Gill says they come from diverse backgrounds, they continually demonstrate selflessness and there is nothing more awe-inspiring than to work with them.
“It’s an honor to be able to lead these Marines,” he said.
The security element arrived on Dominica on Sept. 23, and immediately went to work establishing the evacuation control center in conjunction with representatives from the U.S. State Department.
They hit the ground running, literally, rushing out to greet arriving aircraft dropping off rescued survivors and hustling to help helicopters disembark passengers and take off again, with engines still running.
They braved roads blocked by debris and washed out by landslides to secure landing zones, allowing search-and-rescue personnel to land in areas known to have U.S. citizens in need of assistance.
It was intense work in an austere and challenging environment. Gill provides leadership to keep his team going, focused on the mission and what needs to be done.
When asked how his time at Methodist University prepared him for this deployment, Gill said he learned to never give up, whatever you do. “Set goals, there will be bumps but stay focused, keep driving and pushing no matter the circumstances.”
This advice clearly served him and his team well. Before they closed the evacuation mission, Gill’s team facilitated the evacuation of more than 300 American citizens and others to safety from Dominica.
They are currently facilitating the delivery of much-needed humanitarian aid by helicopter to areas of Dominica that remain unreachable by road.
When he is not serving duty as Marine, Gill works as an operations analyst for the Armed Services Cooperation in Alexandria, Virginia.
“With my experience as a Marine and in my civilian career, I’ve been able to build on the foundation of leadership training that started for me at Methodist University. As Marines, we train for a variety of situations. Being able to use our skills to help the people of Dominica makes this mission even more meaningful.”