Communication equals success - Senior drill instructor uses communication to find success in life
Submitted by: MCRD San Diego
Story Identification Number: 2003711134614
Story by Cpl. Shawn Toussaint

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif.(July 11, 2003) -- A phone rings as recruits respond to a drill instructor's commands in Building 585, Squad Bay B2. An energetic voice greets the caller: "Platoon 3086, senior drill instructor Staff Sgt. Cano speaking."

Transforming young men into Marines is enough to keep anybody busy, but judging by how many times this drill instructor's phone rings in a five-minute span, Staff Sgt. Gabriel Cano from Company I is especially busy.

When Cano is communicating, whether by phone, e-mail or face-to-face, he said he is at his best. "Communication is the key to teamwork, and it takes teamwork to make Marines," said Cano."He is able to balance a caring attitude, and at the same time, bring us to understand mission accomplishment and core values," said PFC Daniel A. Elborne, Platoon 3086. "His words encourage and motivate the platoon."

His ability to communicate with his peers, subordinates and supervisors has earned him the Dan Daly Award, which goes to the best drill instructor in a given company. Cano's ability to teach young men is a testament to his professionalism as a drill instructor, according to Staff Sgt. Chad O. James, chief drill instructor, Co. I.

Cano's ascent to being top drill instructor in the company did not come without pitfalls. Like many new drill instructors, Cano suffered growing pains during his first cycle, according to Sgt. Manuel Ramirez, a fellow Platoon 3086 drill instructor. Ramirez has worked on the drill field with Cano as a superior and as a subordinate.

"His first cycle was challenging and frustrating," said Ramirez. "He needed to be more assertive and confident in his ability to teach."

Cano quickly learned that he needed help from the more experienced drill instructors in his company. This was when he would exercise an important communication concept: listening.

Cano quickly gained knowledge and respect within the company, and he soon became a drill instructor that his superiors would recommend to new drill instructors.

"I am very grateful to the drill instructors who mentored me and showed me how to be an effective drill instructor," said Cano. "Through teamwork and cooperation, the tough times were overcome. Now it is my turn to help someone else."

Just as communication is essential on the drill field, it is important with family.

"Being a drill instructor has helped me realize how valuable the time I spend with my family is," said Cano. "I thank Christina for her strength. Without her, my success would not have been possible. My advice to new drill instructors would be to communicate with their spouses and always keep them informed."

According to Cano, his six-year-old son Christian has already shown interest in becoming a Marine.

"Christina said 'he wants to have his room painted camouflage just like daddy's uniform,'" said Cano.

If Christian does decide to join the Corps, he and his father will be the only two members of Cano's immediate family to serve. Cano said that the decision he made eight years ago is one of the best he's ever made.

"I didn't want to be flipping burgers," Cano said about his plans after graduating from Oso High School in Corpus Christi, Texas. "I didn't want to go to college. I wanted to do something different."

Doing something different meant joining the Marines, which was difficult to communicate to his mother. "She did not want to see her youngest son run off and join the Marines," said Cano.

However, after she saw what the Corps did for her son as he marched across the parade deck February 1996, she was prouder than ever, according to Cano. He now makes other mothers proud by helping to transform their sons into Marines.

According to Cano's peers and superiors, his ability to communicate and his willingness to work with a team has answered the call to success when training recruits.

Using his powers of communication, Staff Sgt. Gabriel Cano, senior drill instructor, Platoon 3086, Company I, gives his platoon a motivational speech before the final drill competition.
Photo by: Lance Cpl. Jess Levens

The Drifter