Unarmored Talk

From the Marine Corps to Civilian Life: Ellis Craig's Inspiring Journey

November 10, 2023 Ellis Craig Episode 98
Unarmored Talk
From the Marine Corps to Civilian Life: Ellis Craig's Inspiring Journey
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

I can think of many heroes on the Marine Corps' 248th Birthday. In this episode, I had the privilege of hosting a Marine Corps veteran I consider a modern-day hero, Ellis Craig.

After returning from a combat deployment and hanging up his uniform, Ellis was faced with a new kind of battle - thriving in a civilian world. Imagine working odd jobs to make ends meet, struggling to fit in after being shaped by a military mindset. Ellis did not only survive, but he also fought, he persevered. From his uncle's advice to stay in Washington, D.C., and fight for his dreams, to his experiences with nightclub security and living with his sister's family, Ellis' journey is a testament to determination and resilience.

We wrap up by exploring his career trajectory after leaving the Marine Corps, his work at the Pentagon, and how he uses his platform to inspire other military veterans. Don't miss out on this inspiring conversation with Ellis Craig and Happy 248th Birthday Marines!

Guest Link:
➡LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elliscraigveteran/
➡Watch: https://youtu.be/vbiSyKlChfU

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Mario P. Fields:

Welcome back to unarmored talk podcast. Thank you so much for listening and watching each episode and continue pleased to share with your friends and family members and colleagues, and don't forget to leave a rating or review if you feel this is a awesome show. And you can connect to all of my social media on the parade deck just looking at show notes, or you can put in the search engine Mario P Fields parade deck and get all access to my social media. Well, let's get ready to interview another guest who is willing to remove their armor to help other people? Everyone, welcome back to unarmored talk podcast, for this special episode had to make it special, for I consider him not just a brother, but a close friend, family member. He's helped me out a lot when I developed global inspirational speakers back in 2018. His name is Alice Craig. What's going on, man? What's up, mario? Thank you for having me. I'm totally excited and let's get into this man. I love it. Yeah, let's do it. But before I get into the official introduction of another guest, who's who's willing to remove his armor to help other people, I want to give a shout out, a loyal fan shout out to Sergeant Major Ronald L Green, the 18th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. He's been listening and watching our unarmored talk podcast who knows when, but I want to say thank you for what you're doing out there, thank you for what you are doing at Southwest Airlines and everyone. I would love for you guys to hit me up and host at unarmored talkcom. Give me your full name and maybe give me something you want me to mention about what you're doing out there, because I love the fans and you guys know the deal couldn't do it without the listeners and viewers supporting this show almost three years now. So thank you so much. Again. Done with the admin stuff, here we go. Alice Craig. He is a Marine Corps, united States Marine Corps veteran. He was an 0311. For you folks who have never served in the military, that is a rifleman. He was in the infantry when he came in, did a few years and have done a lot of things since then. You know he's advising executives in that Washington. You know Washington BC area and he's doing a lot more. Give it up for United States Marine Corps veteran and my friend Alice Craig. Thank you, maria for the outstanding intro. Thank you so much. I'm excited to have a chat with you today and then talk to the community. You know veterans has always been dear to my heart, so I want to kind of take off my armor and talk about some of my experiences after I transitioned out the Marine Corps and just share that with the community and hope they get some insight and able to kind of continue to move forward in life to be the best that they can be after they get out. Yes, sir, yeah, I appreciate it. Can you tell the listeners and viewers just a little bit about yourself, alice? Yeah, so, from Pennsylvania. My mom and dad, they were just middle class family. My dad was actually a entrepreneur in his own right, really worked in the restaurant equipment arena, and my mother, she helped. She worked for the Women's Resource Center, which is a volunteer center in Scranton, pa, and she helped domestic violence victims and other folks like that. So I'm from a community and also a family that always believed in giving back and I've seen that throughout my life. And so after high school I decided to join the Marine Corps and how I kind of got there, mario, I saw a Army guy out there in uniform, right, and I walked up to him and I said, hey, I want to list an Army, and so he brings me in and gives me brochures and kind of talk and all that, and he said Okay, we'll set you up for the AFAD and get you going. So I kind of took those brochures out and left and on the way out the door there was a Marine in Dress Blues. So I asked the guy. I said hey, are you hiring? He goes no, we're not hiring. He said Go to Army Air Force, we're not hiring. So I just stood there, you know, at 17 and a half ish, and he said we're, but we are looking for that. I proceeded to walk off and he said we are looking for a few good men. And he goes Are you up for the challenge? I said, well, what's the challenge? He goes, you know, first getting through boot camp, you know. So at the time I played sports, football, things like that. So I was always up for challenges, right, right. And so he said, hey, a schedule, a conversation, you know, interview, and we can chat it. And I was just, I think, the recruiter. Of course it's always a sales pitch, we get that right. Well, it was always a sales pitch. But I was at all, you know, with the uniform, with his presence, you know talking about his travel around the world. And I knew right there at 17 and a half that I needed an attitude adjustment Young youth, you know and I knew that I needed more right and I wanted to get out of my community and do other things and experience the world. So I viewed the Marine Corps, the military, as the ticket to really get into manhood and develop myself as a young man. Right Got into the Marine Corps, paris Island, south Carolina. First duty station was at Camp June, north Carolina, fox 2-2, infantry Unit. So did four years there, served time over in Okinawa, japan, philippines and, of course, kuwait. So that was a great experience. It was a natural experience. I learned a lot about leadership, I learned a lot about people and so. But one thing that happened, mario, was just me getting out. You know, I decided to get a Marine Corps. My mom was ill at the time so I just kind of made this command decision. But when I made the command decision I didn't do the calculus right. I found myself out of the Marine Corps after Desert Storm 1. And I thought to myself that I don't believe just arts. I've been in a combat environment, I have small unit leadership. I should be able to get a job and that there was the trap, and that trap is called a fixed mindset. I had a fixed mindset that I'm going to be good to go, that I could just get out of Marine Corps and I'm going to get hired, not knowing that that fixed mindset was the trap and you really have to have a growth mindset backed behind execution and planning. So when I got out of Marine Corps and went back home, there was no resources that was really available to me for the transition. So I always had this national, permanent interest in national security, just didn't know how to get there. And back home I did a lot of just odds and ends and just working, just day-to-day jobs, and so my mom was kind of ill and then she passed 95 of cancer and so at that time there was really nothing there, job wise. I couldn't meet my goal in that environment, in that community. So I took a leap in faith, mario, and went down to Washington DC, to a new city, to a new world, new environment, a very rich environment for the national security community. So let's talk about you, know that, and sorry for the loss of your mother, by the way. Again, there's no words that can take away any of that. The memories, pain, you know, and of course I've lost my mother, but I just want to add that to this special episode. But let's talk about that. You made a decision, you made it. This. It was a choice. You chose I'm going to get out of the Marine Corps, go back to Pennsylvania, right, yeah? So I'm going to go back to and, by the way, phil's family from Pennsylvania. So I got a special place in my heart for Pennsylvania. But you go back to Pennsylvania, try some my jobs mom passed away and then you decide I'm going to, I have this, you know, this interest in kind of national security, so I am going to go from Pennsylvania to Washington DC. Did you know anyone in Washington DC when you did this? Only person I knew was my sister and I had two cousins and that was. It was, that was the support group, very like. They were in school, they had their own lives, and so I was able to kind of move in with my sister right Now I'm the older brother, right, and she's younger. So, as a man, as a man and my dad taught me about, you know, being a grown man, being a grown adult I didn't care for it too much. But she offered, she made an offer and said you can come and get the couch right. So, hey, on it. So I get to the Maryland area, you know, and and I tell you at that point, you know, had to feed myself, right, it's about survival. So I worked for a temp company, right, and I was putting shangles on roofs, you know, I mean in the hot, blazing sun. Wow, I was. I mean, I remember, you know, on the truck, mario, where you have the boom going up to the roof and then there's these levers and you put the bag of shangles on each lever and just keep it going, because you got to do 200 houses by five o'clock, right, and I was working with this one guy, and he was from Alabama, I believe, and I mean he was just rolling, he was just going through it and I think I put a shangle on the, on the belt, where the shangle broke open, and the shangles were all over the place and he said, hey, man, this, you got to move faster. I felt like a grunt again, right, you know, right, but I had to feed myself. That was the temp company. The temp company said we'll give you that job, and so it kind of did that. Then I got into like nightclub security. Right, you know, I started doing nightclub security. So basically I was working like three, four jobs, wow, ends meet, without really my own apartment without my own credit being built. You know, it was just really in survivor mode. I did Valley Parking at a restaurant in DC called OEV at Grill and I remember just being out there in cold nights and people throwing you the keys and you got to go get the car. So during this whole time I said to myself like, okay, I'm in this big fishbowl, washington DC, what's my pathway into national security? Because there was a point where my sister says, hey, okay, I'm moving, you got 30 days, you know, good luck. So I remember I called my uncle, former Marine. He left home at 14 years old, he recently passed away, and I said hey, uncle, I want to go to California, come to California and push trucks, drive trucks. Because he was a truck driver. He said are you kidding me? You have never said anything about trucks. I said what's going on out there? I said it's just tough and I'm just our jobs and just trying to make it. He goes well, you have all your faculties. I said correct, no medical issues, correct. So all you need is grit, like the Marine Corps taught you. I said yes. He said so, work those three jobs and put a plan into action. And I'm not letting you come to California. You need to stay there and fight for your goal, fight for your dream, your aspirations. So we hung up the phone. I was mad. I was mad because I was looking for a way out and so kept working these things right, just odd jobs, odd jobs. And I remember I had to find a room to rent and I found one in a neighborhood that was distressed and met the lady. It was an apartment, her own apartment, and she goes. Okay, you can stay here for 90 bucks a week. I will not give you a key, don't touch my refrigerator and don't be late with my $90. So okay. So how do I get into the house? She goes when I get home. So I'm sitting outside, you know, five o'clock, getting off work and waiting for her to come home at nine and night, just sitting outside on the stoop, right and just about six, eight months. And so I remember one day she opened the door, she gets home, open, wide walking, and then I go to the room. I was sharing a room with her son and he was about 17, big guy and was a bunk bed, mario, and so he's in a top bed and I'm on the bottom and he would get up into the bed and the mattress would sink and I saw the springs and the springs were like maybe a foot from my face and he was snoring and I said right then, and there, where are you going? What is going on? I was praying, yeah, and you know, ellis, and I love how. I love how you talked about your emotions. You know, as you made this move up to Maryland and the Washington DC area, and you know, on our talk podcast, again, it's about you know thinking through things. You know thinking to improve the outcome of the situation. And here you are, you have this emotion where you know and, by the way, everyone, natasha is the sister, previous episode, she's amazing. Matter of fact, I think Ellis is making her coffee in the morning. But, seriously, and like you said, you were raised with this belief system. You know men provide. And here it is, your little sister saying, hey, I have a couch, and your emotions like this is stupid, I shouldn't be doing this. And then how you thought through. That now got you too. You know you're in a situation where you have this we'll just say seven foot five, 17 year old, if you will, because we know it wasn't Mario size Right. But I want to highlight that because you see how it improved somewhat the situation when you thought through those emotions. And so now, here you are, you're waking up, you're going all right, man, we got to do something. Talk to us, right, right, right. So at that point and I always see these springs I said to myself that the reason why I'm here because I'm not poor, poor is a distressed mindset. Right, it's a mindset. I've been in countries like Philippines, where I saw what poor look like, but I was economically broke. And that very moment I said I'm going to change this and I knew I had to get out of this environment. I needed a one bedroom apartment for me. So I did find that. And when I found that, mario, here's what I did and that one bedroom apartment, I dedicated myself every day to pushups, sit-ups, reading motivational books and making a promise to myself I won't be economically broke, I will get into the national community arena. Right, I'll be successful, and success is different for everyone being in that space. Here's what I did in that space. I went dark for six, eight months and what I mean by that is no clubs really try to limit contact with the world. Work save, stay focused and execute. So what happened was when I stayed focused and I started to execute when I'm gonna be by executing just getting some money right, getting little savings going, feeling decent about myself right, doing a lot of reading on national security and here's one thing I did that really changed my paradigm. I will listen to C-SPAN. What? Anything national security, anything national security right. Because I said if I want to be it, I got to live it. I got to see it, I got to hear it, right. And so went through that dark period, got my footing, if you will, right. And then I saw this job announcement Just came out. The blue in the newspaper at the time was just in the newspaper. Veterans encouraged to apply. What was that? Again, that was 1960? 1997, 1998, right, we always put human reasons. Yeah, absolutely. And I applied right. And it was a federal government job. And so I applied. My BD 214 was to ticket in, They'll drain you up top secret clearance and all that good stuff. And so I got the job. I felt proud, I felt relieved that I had a benefit package, right, you know, like health care, dental and retirement right. But there was another challenge within that system. I'm in this law enforcement engagement arena. But I said the national security intelligence apparatus is where I want to go. So I had to really learn the trade graph first, right, get mentors, talk to people, engage people, kind of put in my work, putting that body of work. And so I had mentors that I seeked out and I think as veterans, transitioning veterans, you have to be honest with yourself sometimes. And I came to the table, talking to these mentors with humility, and said I don't know, right, here's my resume. I don't know if it's right or wrong. Here's my elevator pitch. I don't know if it's right or wrong. So being vulnerable, because it's hard to be vulnerable when your mentor's got a land here. He's a Marine and he's a major and you're very cautious on how you communicate that as far as you're major, because you don't want to look ill equipped, right. And so I had these areas of vulnerability and I would tell the people that are listening to this that there's a whole variety of people out here that is willing to help, whether it's veterans or non-veterans or whatever community that you're in. And I think what's important is to come to those engagements with an attitude that I don't know and will you help me? Right, I remove that hard core barrier that I can charge the hill by myself, because I tried to charge it by myself and it didn't work. I thought the medals, I thought the America would say I thank you and I'm going to give you a job. Corporate America does not give you a job because you serve. So that was that fixed mindset I had. So I turned it into that growth mindset and said I have to add value. So I outworked my peers on the job. Then I got into saying, ok, I need to leave. After you kind of get comfortable in your world. My mentor said, hey, you need to leave this agency and go to another agency. Right, more in spring. Right, I started moving around. But when I moved around, mario, another vulnerability was I moved around to these different agencies, but my network was at the last agency. So I felt alone. Again. I had the job maybe 40K, 50k but I was in a new environment like NASA scientists and engineers. Where's my mentor? Where's my safety net? There wasn't one. So there was a point in my career where I just kind of gradually matured and graduated into a place that you are good enough. Come to the table with your credibility, take all the traits and all the skills and capabilities you learned in the Marine Corps, take all the stuff that you learned from your parents and just show up at work and outmaneuver your peers, outmaneuver your colleagues, and then it hit me do that and if they like you, if people like you, most likely they'll help you. It's called the likability attribute. Yeah, so during all of this, all of the wonderful choices that you made and I love how you mentioned the importance of building your network with mentors was there a point where you experienced an emotion or emotions where you felt like you're not successful enough. You started comparing yourself to people that's been in the NASA industry or these other industries and you're going okay, I'm just not there. Have you ever experienced that challenge and how did you think through that? Yeah, I have. So I'll fast forward and spend time at the Pentagon and I was in this policy shop and one of the unique skills, or technical skills, was writing utility, the ability to write at the separate level. That's what I lacked. And so I remember I had to produce this writing sample for work it was a draft document and in writing that and putting that together, mario, yeah, I felt that I don't know if this is going to meet the mail. And so once I gave that product to my senior leader and at the time this senior leader was Mr Jeffrey Baer, retired Colonel Marine Corps last I heard he was stationed at Quantico but he was the SES at the Pentagon and I gave him this product to review, and it was a Friday night, I believe, and I knew, giving him that product, that it didn't answer the mail. I knew that the context wasn't there, I knew the framework wasn't there. I just didn't have that writing experience at that level. I had that technical, operational writing capability. And but here's one thing that he did. He said it was Friday night. Friday evening he said, hey, you got a second before you go home. I said I do, sir. He broke out the red pen, grabbed the document kind of, made his notes reorganized, did some soft organizing. But he did ask me well, why did you think about this, why did you think about that? And we kind of went through the drill. And then here's one thing he told me, said hey, I want you to really tell me how you got to this finished product. What was the framework, how did you do that? And he said be open with me. And I said well, I described how I got from point A to point B in writing. This product it was a classified product and so we went through that drill. But he spent time with me and after we left, about an hour later, I had built this new confidence to be able to write at the executive level, to build these one-pagers for executives. So it really I was scared about the taking on the task, but after having a conversation with my senior leader, he did what leaders always do. It's okay, you got a vulnerability here. Let me walk you through this. So I embraced that conversation, I took it back with me, I learned from it. So in the Intel community gap, writing utility is big and that could be scary. Briefing capability is big and that could be scary. I had this presence, managers saw this presence and he said hey, we'll put you in front of the undersecretariat or something from the front of senior leadership to Communicate this out. And of course, fear is always in place. Right, that you have to embrace that fear and I said to myself, public speaking, I'm an infantry guy. I mean I'll put the patches together and backseat. No, no, no, we want you to brief. So that was a struggle for me and I knew if I was going to be in the Intel community working as an ex-o executive officer supporting senior leaders. That's part of the job. And so I got into room, I got into those rooms and I stayed in the cockpit, mario, I stayed in the cockpit, yeah, and I and I, I gave that that presence to the senior leadership. I looked them in the eyes, you know, I Spoke with confidence and if I didn't know something, I said I didn't know. Right, but that was. There was some tough times Briefing senior leaders where, yeah, I was, I was afraid, but right, yeah, repetition over and over again and then getting feedback Became to get. I got good at it, you know, yeah, yeah, well, well, you know I, you know I. I could talk to you forever, you know. But I know you're, you know you've helped me so much and you're having so much fun Doing what you do for our nation. So before, before I because if not I'll hijack you Before I let you go, looking back from, from going from this 17 year old kid, yeah, who asked the Marine, the Marine recruiter Are you hiring? And then and then your journey in the Marines and in going from Pennsylvania to Maryland and Washington DC area, going into an industry that you have no idea, kind of what you're getting into, living on a couch and man, looking back at all of that, to where you are today and everyone, by the way and I'll let Ellis tell you guys how you, he can, you guys can find them and you guys can learn more. But but now, looking at you today, if you had to pick one thing To get, not just the transitioning service member, but anyone, what one piece of advice would you give them To a transitioning service member or anyone, not just a Justing service member, anybody? Yeah, I would say this you know, you know, life is hard, it's going to be hard. I Think for me and to pass this on to the community would be Think attitude like your attitude Toward life and day to day. You know, there's times, mario, where I don't want to work out. Right, I don't want to work out, but I fool myself, I go. Let's just do two miles on the treadmill instead of five, 20 push-ups instead of 50, and you know what happens once you get into that workout you get pumped and you do more. So I would tell people that hell with motivation. Why? Because motivations fleeting, it's, it's, it goes away ebbs and flows. The real ticket to my success and anyone's success, because it integrates back and forth, no matter what spectrum of the world you're on in corporate America is discipline, discipline. I found discipline to be the key to success, whatever you want to do right, and that is sticking with the plan day in and day out. And one thing I've learned I don't tell people what I'm doing all the time I set my goal, because I don't need anyone telling me that I can't reach that goal or their own perspectives about why you won't reach the goal. Go in the dark, do the work, have the discipline and if you are the smartest in your circle we all know this right Find another circle, get another orbit. And then, lastly, I would tell everyone you can be technically sound, you can be highly educated. If you're not likable, if you can't integrate into the team, you won't win, because people like me, I have humility and also I want to give back. I'm always trying to help people. And when you're helping people and you're bringing value to any organization or value into your community, your local community, it gets noticed and the doors do open up Right. Well, everyone, you guys heard it. You know attitude starts everything. It's a choice, it's grounded by discipline, your authenticity to want to care, you know, give back, be a contributor to your community. But everything, all these amazing things Alice mentioned, starts with attitude, and I love that. I think I heard her saying this is altitude, is the attitude, and attitude is the altitude, and Alice is giving that to us. You can invoice me. I'll pay it next year, yeah, and one day, margar. I just want to integrate this into the conversation. So, after you know, after all this that we discussed and my favorite highlight in my past time is I'm a career readiness instructor with four block. Four block is a nonprofit and that's what I was going to tell you how can they find you? Yeah, yeah, so you can go to four blockorg and click on staff. You'll see me there. Connect on LinkedIn as well, but to be able to stand in front of oh, sixes and below and and walk them through a transition, it's just full circle. It's full circle Nice and connect with Ellis on LinkedIn. To you guys, he is a wealth of knowledge and if you're transitioning out there, I don't even care if you're transitioning You're not in the military and you're transitioning. Ellis Craig, he's helped me a lot and so and I know he can help you guys, ellis. Thank you so much, my friend. Please tell Natasha I said hello and again, if you ever need anyone to answer your phones or run your social media, and Nicole and I, we're here. But do our targeted resumes, absolutely Targeted resumes, that's right. All the way to pictures. That's right. Mario, we got to stay after it. Yeah, and thank you so much for hosting me today. This is awesome. I appreciate it. Well, everyone, until next time. You guys know the deal. Don't forget again. If you want me to say thank you on the loyal fan, shout out and I look forward to doing that. Hit me up at. Host at unarmoredtalkcom. That's hosted on unarmoredtalkcom. Until the next episode, god bless you all. God bless your families and friends and be safe. Thank you for listening to this most recent episode and remember you can listen and watch all of the previous episodes on my YouTube channel. The best way to connect to me and all of my social media is follow me on the parade deck. That is wwwparade deckcom, or you can click on the link in the show notes. I'll see you guys soon.

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