Carmel businessman now highest ranking Marine in state

Stacey Willis watches as her husband, Scott, receives a congratulatory hug from son, Graden following Scott’s promotion last month.
Stacey Willis watches as her husband, Scott, receives a congratulatory hug from son, Graden following Scott’s promotion last month.

By Mark Ambrogi

Scott Willis was working on his civil engineering degree from Purdue when he sensed a calling.

“About halfway through my time at Purdue, Desert Storm happened,” Willis said of the first Iraq War. “I have a family with military service, especially on the Marine Corps side, that drew me into signing up for the Marines after I graduated from Purdue in 1992. I went to officer candidate school and got commissioned as a lieutenant in the Marine Corps.”

Willis enjoyed his four years of active duty, but said he realized it wasn’t a lifestyle he wanted long-term. However, the Westfield resident stayed in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. On Jan. 17, Willis, 45, was promoted from Lieutenant Colonel to the rank of Colonel.

“It’s the pinnacle of my career because there is only one other promotion I can get and that’s General,” Willis said, adding that there are no generals residing in the state making him the highest ranking officer in Indiana.

However, Willis said he would not be able to contribute the active duty time he needs to get that promotion with owning his own business, an executive search firm in Carmel called Arnett Management Solutions. Willis said he recruits specifically in pharmaceutical and biotech management. Willis started out in the manufacturing world with jobs with Corning Inc., and General Motors.

Sgt. Major John Hampton, who met Willis in the early 2000s and then was deployed with Willis to Iraq in 2005, was pleased with Willis’ promotion.

“He’s a fantastic Marine officer,” Hampton said. “Having known him since he was a captain, it’s nice to see him reach that level. There are over 42,000 Marines in the Marine Corps Reserves and only 319 reached the rank he has achieved. It was quite an achievement.”

After leaving Corning in State College, Pa., Willis moved back to Indiana to work for General Motors in 1999. He lived in Fishers for a few years and met his wife Stacey. They got married and moved to Noblesville for three years before moving to Westfield in January 2005.

During Willis’ 22 years in the Marines, he has served a variety of roles, including time in artillery, tanks and as the commanding officer at Grissom Air Force Base.

“I slowly climbed the ladder to where I am now,” he said.

Willis was deployed to Iraq in June of 2005 and returned home in May 2006. He was stationed at a small outpost called Al Qaim, a train station on the Syrian border.

“I ran a combat logistics detachment on the border,” Willis said. “We basically were tasked with cutting off the supply of material, weapons, insurgents and terrorists crossing the border from Syria into Iraq.”

Willis said his unit also ran polling station for their constitutional referendum and national election.

Willis is now with the Marine Forces Northern Command unit, part of a program called Defense Support Civil Authorities.

“We’re the link between emergency management link between the state and federal government,” Willis said.

Willis is in Region V, which includes several Midwestern states. The program also provides support for events such as the Super Bowl in Indianapolis.

“Any kind of major event that happens in the Midwest, we are usually involved in some kind of contingency plan,” Willis said. “We got deployed for Hurricane Sandy. We have to be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice.”

Willis and his wife, Stacey, have two daughters, Sophia, 11, Brenna, 10; and son, Graden, 6.

“I love being a Marine and I’m very proud of being a Marine,” Willis said. “Twenty-two years in, it’s who I am as a person. So I’m glad I was able to continue to be associated with the Marine Corps. I just didn’t want the lifestyle on the active duty side. Several of the Marines I served with when I was a second lieutenant in 1993 have been deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan. Their time away from family is amazing compared to what we do on the Reserves side.”

Willis has missed time with family and events.

“So there definitely has been time we’ve had to sacrifice but it’s been worth it,” he said. “I was raised in a very patriotic family.”

His father, William Willis, and his maternal uncle, Steve Raquet, were both Marines and served in Vietnam. Both his grandfathers, were in the Army Air Corps, served in World War II with his paternal grandfather being killed in Guam.

“My grandmother was pregnant with my dad when my grandfather was shot down in Guam and killed in action,” Willis said.

His father was later adopted and his last name was changed from Arnett to Willis. Arnett serves as Willis’ middle name and business name.