I was born in Valparaiso,
Ind. I was raised there until I
was about 13, which is when we
moved to Lansdale, Pa. I lived
there for three years and actually
graduated from West Springfield
High School in Springfield, Va. Virginia is home now.
After we moved to Pennsylvania,
my dad came home one day and
was talking about the Sea Cadets. It
sounded real interesting to me, I
had an interest in the Navy and
naval aviation, in particular, and we
lived just a few miles from Willow
Grove Naval Air Station. The
Liberty Bell Squadron was located
nearby, so I didn’t need a lot of convincing to join.
I had a great experience with it.
I stayed with the program for three
years, the duration of our time in
Pennsylvania. I really loved it. I can
remember spending hours studying
the books that were required for
promotion and taking pride in
advancing through the ranks.
I was interested in military service, I knew that I wanted to go into
the military and the Sea Cadets
were a great opportunity to learn a
little bit more and feel it out as a
teenager. It gave me some purpose
and direction. We did close-order
drills, I knew about discipline, I
knew about the need to work hard
to achieve the goals that you set;
these were all valuable lessons that
I got a head start on over some of
On my mother’s side, my grandfather is a West Point grad and veteran of World War II, Korea and
Vietnam, and my uncle also is a
West Point grad who was a career
Army officer. My dad enlisted in
the Navy and served in Vietnam as
door gunner with the HA(L)- 3
Seawolves, and then later earned
his commission in the Army
Reserve. He retired as an Active
Guard and Reserve officer.
I was actually interested in the
Navy and I had a Navy ROTC
[Reserve Officers Training Corp]
scholarship in college. At some
point during my freshman year I
realized I was actually more interesting in going into the Marine Corps,
so I started working toward that and
got my scholarship transferred over.
I liked the discipline, liked the esprit
de corps. That was what attracted
me to the Marine Corps.
I did ROTC at Tulane in New
Orleans. I graduated and was commissioned the same day. About a
month later, I was in the Marine
Corps basic officer course. I was on
active duty with the Marine Corps
for four years. I was assigned to the
2nd Marine Regiment as a logistics
officer and deployed with them to
Iraq in 2007, served as the regimental logistics operations officer,
then as the regimental motor transport officer and platoon commander. That was an interesting deployment, good experience. A lot of
learning went on there.
After I left active duty and
joined the Reserve component, I
served for about six months with
the Marine Corps Office of Legislative Affairs at the Pentagon, so
that was my first taste of legislative
or government affairs type work.
After that, I volunteered for a
deployment to Afghanistan in
2010. I was attached to 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines while I was over
there and when I came home, I
transferred back to the East Coast
2nd Civil Affairs Group. That’s my
Reserve unit, I’ve been with them
for about three years, since I came
back from Afghanistan.
A very close Marine friend of
mine was working on the Hill and let
me know that Congressman Miller
was looking for a recent combat vet
to serve as his MLA [military legislative assistant], so I had the little bit of
legislative experience and I had just
come back from Afghanistan. I had a
couple interviews and was fortunate
enough to be hired.
It was a steep learning curve,
but Congressman Miller’s staff is a
tight bunch with a lot of experience there. And my peers in other
offices, we tend to collaborate a lot,
so that is helpful, to be able to rely
on other folks you know. And actually I did know a few folks from my
time on active duty who were
already up here on the Hill when I
showed up. They quickly became
trusted confidants and I was happy
to be able to rely on them.
Capt Gilbert M. Nelson
U.S. MARINE CORPS RESERVE
MILITARY LEGISLATIVE ASSISTANT TO U.S. REP. JEFF MILLER, R-FLA.
PROFILES IN SERVICE
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