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Levi Wilson, retired Marine Sergeant Major I first joined the Marine Corps as a young private right out of high school in St. Stephen, SC. I played football and knew that I wanted to attend college. A high school guidance counselor explained to me that if you spent two years in the military your college would be paid for. Because my family did not have the funds to get me through college, I told myself, “I am going to give that a shot.”

I believe opportunity comes with being in the right place at the right time, but it also comes with having the credentials to fit the space. I was lucky enough to be a part of one of the greatest elites of the Marine Corps (with tours in Desert Storm and Desert Shield), a member of the Marine Corps silent drill team and a member of the Camp David community.

When I first joined the Marine Corps as a private, I didn’t think I would make the rank of Sergeant, let alone a Marine Sergeant Major. I learned early in the Marine Corps that to be a good leader, you—at one point—need to be a good follower. The point is, when the opportunity presents itself, you’re ready for it because you’ve already been a great leader and are setting a great example. I became Sergeant Major while serving at Camp David and then advanced to overseeing the Recruiting Command in Houston, TX. Because of my experiences, I was able to be the kind of leader necessary to become a Sergeant Major.

Levi J. Wilson Sr., Retired Marine Sergeant Major
President HW Bush and First Sergeant Wilson

After 30 years of service, I sometimes pinch myself and say, ‘Wow. How did I get to this point?’ But looking back, I realize there are a few things one must do to get to this point—be credible, know your job and most of all, lead by example.

I became a Marine Sergeant after just two years in the Marine Corps and I decided to stay. After all these years, I am proud to say I’ve also reached my goal of graduating from St. Leo University in April 2016 with a Bachelor of Business degree.

We all have a different journey and that’s how I’ve learned to be the way I am. I came from humbling beginnings, and I knew I could turn that around in the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps was my very first job. Working at Blackwater was my first civilian job ever and working at ADS was my second.

You maintain credibility when people trust you, and when people trust you, they will follow you. One of the good things about me was I was always firm but fair. The leadership lessons I’ve learned apply in the civilian world, too. It applied it to the way I treated my children and, now that I’m retired, it applies in the sales community.

The best bosses are the ones who recognize the skills they crucially need in order to lead others to success. Exceptional leaders are firm but fair, know their role and the role of their team, treat everybody equally and are master problem-solvers.

Like Levi, they know that the success of their followers starts with being an exemplary leader. At ADS, Inc., we appreciate the focus and dedication that our leaders bring to our team members every day.

Military Men Posing in a Group
  • 1972 | Private, Paris Island, SC
  • 1972 – 1975 | Camp Lejeune
  • 1975 – 1977 | Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C.
  • 1977 – 1979 | Embassy Duty, Port of Prince, Haiti and San Domingo, Dominican Republic
  • 1979 – 1983 | Drill Instructor, Paris Island, SC
  • 1983 – 1985 | Instructor, Camp Pendleton, California
  • 1985 – 1986 | NCOIC, Corporal School, Okinawa, Japan
  • 1986 – 1987 | Detachment Commander, Bamako, Mali
  • 1987 – 1989 | Detachment Commander, Germany (3-year tour)
  • 1989 – 1992 | First Reconnaissance Battalion, Camp Pendleton, California – went to Desert Storm and Desert Shield
  • 1992 – 1994 | First Sergeant, Camp David, Maryland
  • 1994 – 1997 | Recruiting Command, Houston, Tx
  • 1997 – 1999 | Sergeant Major, Mag 42, Norfolk, VA
  • 1999 – 2002 | Sergeant Major, Security Force Regiment, Norfolk, VA
  • 2002 | Retired
  • 2002 – 2003 | Blackwater
  • 2003 – Present | ADS, Inc.



A Hand Holding ADS Medal, Walk With Warriors