A Conversation with Thomas Craig, Ph.D., Marine Corps Sergeant (E5)
Role at DeSales: Associate professor; Edward A. McCabe chair of business and society; chair of the international business major.
Branch of service: Marine Corps Reserve, Sergeant E5, Honorably discharged.
Why did you choose to join the Marine Corps Reserve and what did it entail?
At 19, I was uncertain about what I wanted to do with my life and my initial college experience was not very inspiring. I met with a Marine Corps recruiter and was planning to go full-time active duty, but my parents convinced me to finish my college degree first. The reserves offered a great way to do this.
The program I was in allowed me to do my training in the summer and go to college during the fall and spring semesters. In the summer of 1987, I went to boot camp at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. The following summer, I went to the Marine Corps Radio and Communications School in Twentynine Palms, California, to learn my primary specialty, radio operations. After boot camp, I began the normal reserve training cycle of one weekend a month duty at the Allentown Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center, and in the summers after radio school, our unit would go on two-week trainings at various bases.
Was there a moment you doubted you’d make it through training? How did you persevere?
Boot camp was 13 weeks long, and it was very physically and emotionally challenging at the start. After a while, you got used to it and could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The final “long march” at night back to base during the last week before graduation was when the drill instructors started to lighten up and give you a sense you were going to make it. But at one point around week eight or nine, my bunkmate and I were making our racks and listening to the drill instructors yell at some poor recruit who had done something wrong, and we just started cracking up. I think at that point I realized that I was going to be okay, and we’d be graduating in a few weeks.
Describe one of your favorite memories from being in the reserve.
I loved being at Twentynine Palms in the desert and Camp Pendleton on the coast. They are massive bases and we participated in some amazing live fire combined arms exercises with tanks, planes, helicopters, amphibious landings, artillery, missiles, etc. During this time, many of the Marines stationed at these bases were preparing for and being deployed to Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Our unit was mobilized early yet we never deployed overseas, but many reserve units from all branches were called up and participated alongside the active-duty forces during the Gulf War. All the forces deployed during this time deserve a special level of gratitude and respect for the sacrifices they made.
How has your time in the Marine Corps made you a better leader?
I certainly matured a lot from the experience and learned to work with many different people from all backgrounds as teammates—nobody was rich or poor, or Black, brown, or white. We were all Marine Corps green. Two of the main things that are taught in the military are respect for authority and the primary importance of mission accomplishment. No matter what happens or what challenges you encounter, you and your team need to get your assigned task, or else the whole plan falls apart.
What do you wish people knew about service?
I contributed in a very small way to something that I believe is extremely important. I think that everyone should consider the many blessings and benefits that we as Americans have and recognize that these blessings and benefits require a lot of dedicated effort to maintain. Everyone can contribute to our country in some way, whether it is military service, public service, community service, volunteering, etc. Choose where you can contribute and do it. To everyone: support those who are serving or have served and vote for leaders who support them as well. A strong military is the foundation of our success as a nation.
This November, DeSales is highlighting members of our campus community who have served or are currently serving in the armed forces. We appreciate all that you do.