A Lifetime Of Public Service
by U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Christopher McMurry
November 3, 2021
Thomas E. Tuggle II was born and raised in Hernando, Mississippi, a small town just south of Memphis.
He grew up in a single parent home raised by his mother who “was a disciplinarian who didn’t spare the rod.” Tuggle credits his mother for laying the foundation for his success that he would later build upon throughout his time in the Marine Corps.
October 15, 2021 - Mississippi Highway Patrol Academy Lt. Col. Thomas E Tuggle II stands in front of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island's entrance where he was once stationed when he was in the Marine Corps. He also brought several of his Mississippi State Troopers with him. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher McMurry.)
The military wasn’t often talked about during Tuggle’s childhood, and his only perception of the military was what he saw from his six cousins who served in the Marine Corps.
“It was probably the sixth or seventh grade when I decided I wanted to join the Marine Corps,” Tuggle said. “It was really the uniform that attracted me.”
In 1987, Tuggle graduated high school at the age of seventeen, enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, and left home bound for Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.
“The Army, Navy, Air Force… none of those branches really crossed my mind,” Tuggle said. “I wanted a challenge and what the other branches weren’t offering was a chance to earn something— to earn the title. My generation was all about earning things and hard work and when you look at those characteristics that's what the Marine Corps had to offer.”
Time In The Corps
From the very beginning of his time at MCRD Parris Island, Tuggle dedicated himself completely to the Marine Corps and his commitment and determination quickly resulted in success.
“As Marines would say I drank the Kool-Aid and licked the bowl clean,” Tuggle said. “There’s no way to only get halfway in, so I jumped completely in during recruit training and graduated in a leadership position and got meritoriously promoted to Private First Class.”
Following recruit training, Tuggle went on to graduate as a field wireman and as the honor graduate and was meritoriously promoted again to Lance Corporal. In 1989, Tuggle was awarded his first Navy Achievement Medal, while stationed in Hawaii, for winning Marine of the Quarter and was meritoriously promoted to Corporal.
Shortly after returning from noncommissioned officer schooling, Tuggle and his unit were deployed to the Middle East to support Operation Desert Shield. Two hours after the unit landed in Saudi Arabia, the operation was changed to Operation Desert Storm.
Initially Tuggle felt well prepared having gone through several Marine Corps training exercises for situations like this.
“It wasn’t until the commanding officer got on top of a Humvee and told us that we were going through the breach and to look to the people to our left and right because we’re going to lose some people so prepare ourselves,” said Tuggle. “He told us all to go back to our fox holes and write down what we would want someone to say about us at our funeral. That was the first time I realized this was not a training exercise.”
Unsure if he would make it out of Iraq alive, Tuggle turned to his faith.
“I'm a spiritual guy so I got down on my knees and had a conversation with God,” said Tuggle. “I told him I would make him a promise. I said God if you get me through this I promise I will find something else in my life to do.”
Tuggle spent five months doing operations as part of Task Force Ripper in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait before returning back to Hawaii.
After returning from his deployment, Tuggle told his career planner he would reenlist if he get orders to Parris Island to be a drill instructor. Tuggle was told he could only get orders to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. Tuggle ultimately decided not to reenlist and instead “fulfilled his promise to God” and left the Marine Corps.
A New Path
Tuggle returned home to Hernando and began working the same job he had before joining the Marine Corps. According to Tuggle, they simply had to “dust off” his old time card.
One day while at church he was approached by a man who asked him if he had ever thought about becoming a police officer.
Although Tuggle left the Marine Corps, the values and traits he learned in those four years were instilled in him for life. Tuggle said the Marine Corps defined his style of leadership and he believed his service could be valuable as a police officer.
On January 4th, 1992, Tuggle joined the Hernando Police Department. He went to the state police academy in 1993 and graduated as the class leader.
Tuggle worked his way up to shift sergeant and worked on the SWAT team before transferring to the Highway Patrol Academy in 1995, graduating with honors. Following graduation, Tuggle returned back to Desoto County as a Mississippi State Highway Patrolman and began policing the very roads he grew up on.
In 2000, Tuggle became a full time instructor at the law enforcement academy with the intent to stay there, however, little did he know his life plan would soon change. In 2006, Tuggle accepted the position as executive officer of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety.
Two years later, Tuggle transferred back to the law enforcement academy as the Assistant Director. Tuggle went on to attend the FBI National Academy in 2015 where he was the first African-American to graduate as a session president. Following graduation, Tuggle resumed his position as Assistant Director until he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and became the Academy Director in 2017, the position he currently holds today.
Building For The Future
Since taking over as the director of the academy, Tuggle has had one goal: to ensure the state of Mississippi has the best training for police officers in the nation. To meet that goal, Tuggle believes the solution lies in the very place where he learned discipline himself—Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.
“Mississippi has a great program that instills each police officer with discipline, character, and humility,” said Tuggle. “But we need to make our program better.”
Tuggle said he told his instructors the only way that this program is going to be better and more successful is to see where he learned leadership traits firsthand.
In October, Tuggle brought his instructors to Parris Island for one week to observe drill instructors and see how the Marine Corps trains recruits. Tuggle believes that by providing his instructors with the chance to learn from the best, it will greatly help them succeed in their job of producing law enforcement officers.
October 15, 2021 - Mississippi Highway Patrol Academy Lt. Col. Thomas E Tuggle II (a retired Marine) brought his State Troopers to visit Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher McMurry.)
Tuggle said coming to Parris Island and modeling our system after the Marines gives us the tools we need to succeed. Tuggle credits the Marine Corps for driving his success in law enforcement and wants to pass the opportunity to learn from the Marines down to his instructors.
“I told my guys before I leave, I'm going to make sure you have every resource possible to be successful,” said Tuggle. “I wanted them to have the opportunity to see how Marines train so they can learn from the world's best. Now it’s time for them to go out and do great things.”
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