Pete Ellis Essay Contest

CHERRY POINT, N.C. - A 2d Marine Aircraft Wing Marine landed a highly coveted writing award recently for his vision of the Marine Corps for the 21st Century.

Maj Jonathan Howard, a Marine Air Ground Task Force planner with 2d Marine Aircraft Wing, captured first place in the third annual LtCol Earl “Pete” Ellis Essay Contest, which is sponsored by the Marine Corps Association Foundation. The contest invites Marines to suggest possible solutions for achieving the vision of Expeditionary Force 21 while operating in a fiscally austere environment.

Howard’s essay, “Force Optimization, Regional Alignment and Naval Integration: How the Marine Corps Can Implement the Vision of Expeditionary Force 21 With Fewer Resources” earned him a $5,000 prize, and an engraved plaque.  His essay will be published in the February 2015 edition of the Marine Corps Gazette. MajGen Robert F. Hedelund, Commanding General, 2d Marine Aircraft Wing, presented the awards on Dec. 11, 2014.

The contest is named for LtCol Earl “Pete” Hancock Ellis, who, in the early 1920s, proposed an idea to enhance the Marine Corps’ amphibious capabilities for future engagements – an idea which was later implemented by the Marine Corps in the years leading up to World War II.

It is that kind of forward thinking that’s rewarded in the Marine Corps Association Foundation contest. The contest is open to Marines and civilians interested in expanding dialogue with creative ideas and solutions for how a fiscally constrained Navy-Marine Corps team can effectively execute the full range of naval amphibious operations in future threat environments.

“This is an extremely humbling experience,” said Howard, a Union, S.C., native. “My peers and mentors helped me by providing me with feedback. My family helped me by being supportive, so I cannot take full credit for winning the essay.”
Howard hopes key decision makers will read his essay and implement some of his ideas.

“This was my first time competing in any type of writing contest,” said Howard. “The inspiration to participate in the essay came from my concern for the Marine Corps and its future.”

Howard’s nine-page essay encourages a strong Navy-Marine Corps integration plan to face the global challenges of the 21st century.

In the essay, Howard explains the importance of a cohesive Navy-Marine Corps team as a dynamic amphibious force and creating standing Marine Expeditionary Brigades, which would increase cohesiveness and mutual support across the globe despite budget constraints.

“The Marine Corps has a lot of historical experience dealing with budget constraints,” said Howard. “A lot of people assumed that the drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan would reduce our operational requirements, but that didn’t happen. The operational demands on our service remain high. We must use critical and creative thinking to provide the nation with the force it needs even when we don’t have the resources that we would like to have.”

- By Cpl Unique B. Roberts

Read more about the Marine Writing Program Awards.

Read more about the Marine Corps Gazette Writing Awards.

In an essay of 3,000 to 4,000 words, answer one of the following questions:


What role can rapid prototyping and acquisition play in equipping Marines for the modern battlefield? How can the process be improved?


Both MCDP-1 and the Marine Corps Operating Concept call for a focus on force-on-force training. How can the Marine Corps better enable force-on-force training? Live force-on-force training requires an opposition force. How can the Marine Corps best create one?


                  How can the Marine Corps better integrate traditional means of fire support with lethal and non-lethal fires, especially emergent capabilities such as cyber and electronic warfare?


                  How can the Marine Corps better conduct reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance to win the security area fight?

Naval Integration:

                  Successive Commandants of the Marine Corps have called for more integration with the Navy. How can the Marine Corps better integrate with its sister Service?


  • Both civilian & military writers eligible
  • 3,000 – 4,000 words maximum length
  • Entries due between 1 July to 31 August  with entries judged in September and winners announced shortly after 
  • All entries eligible for publication in Marine Corps Gazette
  • Electronically submitted entries are preferred.
  • Attach the entry as a file and send to [email protected]
  • A cover page should be included identifying the manuscript as an Ellis Essay Contest entry and include the title of the essay and the author’s name.
  • Repeat title on the first page, but author’s name should not appear anywhere but on the cover page.
  • Manuscripts are acceptable, but please include a disk in Microsoft Word format with the manuscript.
  • Multiple entries are allowed; however, only one entry will receive an award.
  • The Marine Corps Gazette Editorial Panel and the Ellis Group will evaluate and select the winning essay.
  • All entrants will be notified about the outcome of their entry.


First Prize - $3,000 & Plaque

Second Prize - $1,500 & Plaque

Third Prize - $1,000 & Plaque

Funded by the Marine Corps Association & Foundation

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