Chief Gordon Ellis also serves as a major in the Army National Guard.
By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- Gordon Ellis has helped arrest thieves, murderers and rapists.
Now, as a National Guardsman, he is prepared to help track down terrorists.
"You cannot look at the things that have happened to our nation in the last couple weeks and not feel some sense of the need to bring those responsible for this to justice," he said.
Ellis, 40, serves as both Austintown police chief and a major in the 1st/107th Armored Battalion in the Army National Guard, based in Stow. There are 458 guardsmen in the battalion.
"I'm one soldier among 458 that is ready to go," Ellis said. "Everyone is prepared to go when they're called. I'm no better or worse."
The battalion was placed in a state of heightened security after terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon on Sept. 11.
Ohio units: So far, two Ohio National Guard units have been ordered to mobilize -- one in Columbus, the other in Springfield.
Ellis said he first realized that he could be called to duty when he learned that a commercial plane crashed into the Pentagon. Planes had already struck the two World Trade Center towers.
"I realized that there was a greater plan," Ellis said. "This was too well-rehearsed."
Ellis added that his years of experience in the National Guard and the armed forces have taught him to be prepared for mobilization. He first joined the National Guard in 1980, when he was 18 and had recently graduated from high school in Cincinnati.
Since then, Ellis has been mobilized to provide security at the Lucasville prison riots, assisted the Texas border patrol and has trained in the Aleutian Islands. He noted that over the years, his wife and four children also have learned to prepare for his call-up.
"After 20 years, you accept that fact that the potential is there," he said. "If I have to go, I have to go."
The troops of the 1st/107th Armored Battalion are responsible for maintaining and operating 45 M1 tanks. Ellis is battalion chief of staff, commanding between 30 and 40 guardsmen and planning battalion operations and training missions.
"You move 45 tanks 100 miles, you can't imagine the amount of planning that's involved," he said.
Highly regarded: Capt. Neal O'Brien, the commander of Company C Infantry in the National Guard, described Ellis as "a man of character." O'Brien served under Ellis from 1992-93.
"I have known few military officers who were as morally and ethically sound," he said.
O'Brien said that commitment to moral and ethical standards shows guardsmen the importance of "doing it right, no matter what."
Ellis has served as police chief in Austintown for two years and as a police officer in Ohio for 16 years. Austintown Trustee Jeff Groat said the trustees decided to hire Ellis as chief based in part on his experience in the National Guard.
Groat served in the Air Force in Germany during the buildup to Operation Desert Storm. He said Ellis has brought a group spirit to the township department.
"There seems to be an enhanced pride among the officers," Groat said. "I have the utmost respect for Gordon."
Groat said the trustees have yet to decide how they should fill the position of police chief if Ellis is mobilized.