By Mr. Stephen Standifird (Leonard Wood)March 10, 2016
The Navy career of Matthew McGill brought him through the Center for Seabees and Facilities Engineering Detachment at Fort Leonard Wood twice since it began in 2004.
He left Fort Leonard Wood as an enlisted engineer the first time. Now, he will be leaving as a Naval officer.
While attached to the Navy Detachment as a heavy equipment operator instructor, Petty Officer 1st Class McGill applied for and was accepted into the Navy Limited Duty Officer program, where enlisted Sailors are commissioned as officers in the U.S. Navy based on skill and expertise.
Becoming an officer was not something McGill had planned for when he first decided to join the military out of John Handley High School in Winchester, Virginia.
The path to this point in McGill's career started when he walked into the Armed Forces Recruiting Center in Winchester. He first visited the Marine Corps recruiter, because he didn't want to be on a boat, he said. The recruiter couldn't guarantee a specific occupational specialty, so McGill went next door to the Navy.
"I told them I didn't want to go on boats or ships, and they weren't happy at first," he said. But they still gave him a list of options that could keep his feet on dry land. The option to become a Seabee stuck out to him.
"Throughout high school I wanted to be an engineer, or more specifically an architect," he said. "I saw engineer aid, but they don't get to draw the plans. So I chose the equipment operator side of the house so I could build the building and see it from breaking initial ground to the end. With that rate, I could do all of the (engineer) jobs."
Following graduation from basic training, McGill came to Fort Leonard Wood for the heavy equipment operator course.
While here as a student in 2005, the goal was set that would change his career path in the Navy.
He was asked to write down three goals. One of his goals was to retire from the Navy as an officer, McGill said. It was not something the average enlisted Sailor would be able to accomplish, but that didn't stop him from preparing himself for the opportunity.
"It was a great goal, because it was a challenging one," McGill said. It was something I would have to work and continually put forth additional effort on top of my daily routine."
The application process came to a successful end when it was announced in February of last year that McGill would be commissioned as an ensign. Following a year of anticipation, McGill finally pinned on the gold bars.
"It was a little difficult trying to be patient and not get over excited at first," he said.
"But, as the days got closer and closer," McGill explained, "I was starting to feel like it was really coming true."
Navy LDOs are employed in situations where it is desirable to have an officer with strong, specific technical knowledge and seasoned leadership, skills McGill's officer in charge said he has.
"Ensign McGill has the technical background, and he has proven to me that he has the skills to perform at an officer level," said Navy Lt. Brian Wood, officer in charge of the Equipment Operator and Engineering Aide School and Prime Power School for Mobile Utilities Support Equipment training.
The LDO community in the Navy makes up only 10 percent of the officers. Within the Civil Engineer Corps; there are less than 50 total, Wood said.
"I think he's going to do great," Wood, an LDO himself, said. "He's got the critical thinking skills and the attention to detail to set him up for success. At this point, it is up to him to continue to seek out mentors and to continue the development to ensure he succeeds as an officer."
McGill said he is ready for the next challenge in his career and hopes to one day possibly return to Fort Leonard Wood to be the officer in charge where he could share the secret to his success to the next LDO applicants.
"Keep working and pushing yourself further and further, and you will be amazed at what you can do," he said.
McGill will next attend a four-week limited duty officer academy in Newport, Rhode Island, before checking into Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11, Gulfport, Mississippi, as an officer.