Leroy Jethro Gibbs
NCIS character
NCIS - Leroy Jethro Gibbs.jpg
Mark Harmon as "Leroy Jethro Gibbs"
First appearance"Ice Queen" (JAG)
Last appearance"Great Wide Open"
Portrayed byMark Harmon
Sean Harmon (young)
Micah Tayloe Owens (child)
Voiced byJosh Robert Thompson (NCIS: The Video Game)[1]
In-universe information
OccupationNCIS Special Agent (retired)
Gunnery Sergeant (Marine sniper and military police) (USMC) (separated)
FamilyJackson Gibbs (father, deceased)
Ann Gibbs (mother, deceased)
  • Shannon Fielding Gibbs (deceased)
  • Diane Sterling[2] (divorced, deceased)
  • Rebecca Chase (divorced)
  • Stephanie Flynn (divorced)
  • Ellen Wallace (ex-fiancée, deceased)
ChildrenKelly Gibbs (deceased)
Career at NCIS
PositionSpecial Agent in Charge
  • Major Case Response Team, Washington, D.C. office
  • Undercover operative, Europe
RankSpecial Agent in Charge
Years of Servicec. 1992–2021
AwardsSilver Star, Purple Heart, Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award

Leroy Jethro Gibbs[3] is a fictional character of the CBS TV series NCIS, portrayed by Mark Harmon.[4] He is a former U.S. Marine Corps Scout Sniper turned special agent who commands a team for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Gibbs is the most accomplished marksman on the team and the most skilled at handling violent standoffs; he depends on his other agents heavily for technical forensics and background checks. He is patient but firm with his team and has little patience for bureaucracy; he commands most other main characters—including his current staff Timothy McGee and Nick Torres and previous staff Caitlin Todd (killed in the line of duty), Anthony DiNozzo (left to look after his newly found daughter), Ziva David (presumed as killed after leaving NCIS; later revealed to have gone into hiding), Alexandra Quinn (left to look after her sick mother), Clayton Reeves (killed while defending Abby Sciuto), Ellie Bishop (left presumably for a mission with Odette) and Jacqueline Sloane (left to pursue humanitarian work in Afghanistan). Gibbs was born on November 21, 1954, as confirmed in the episode "Date with Destiny", in which he visits his wife Shannon's and his daughter Kelly's grave and the date is shown on the headstone.[5]

On June 21, 2021, it was reported that Harmon would only appear in a limited capacity during season 19.[6] Having found peace in Alaska for the first time since his family's death, Gibbs leaves NCIS in the episode "Great Wide Open" in search of adventure.[7]

Development and casting

Series creator Donald P. Bellisario initially did not think Mark Harmon would fit the role of Gibbs, a "flinty type with a strong sense of honor and respect for the military", but changed his mind after viewing a tape of Harmon's portrayal of a Secret Service agent on The West Wing.[8] Co-executive producer Charles Floyd Johnson recalls, "We all looked at that work. And everybody said, 'He's Gibbs.'"[9] Harmon was cast in 2003, and Bellisario explained, "I said, 'Oh, my God, he's Gibbs.' He had matured. He's good-looking in a totally different way than he was as a young guy." At another point, he said, "I am so lucky to have Mark Harmon as the lead. You have no idea. This cast is gold. Mark Harmon is a Middle American guy, even if he was raised in Southern California. His values are exactly the same as mine."[10]

Harmon said of his character, "I was attracted by [his] flaws. He has lousy taste in women. He's addicted to coffee."[8]

Gibbs was initially written as "not too far removed" from characters like Dr. Robert "Bobby" Caldwell and Dr. Jack McNeil, both previous roles by Harmon. In an early episode, Gibbs "playfully smacked Weatherly's Dinozzo on the back of the head" resulting in the trademark "headslap" that later appeared in many episodes throughout the seasons.[10]

In later years, he is scripted as more stoic,[11] with Bellisario stating, "I thought the best thing to do was to give him a minimum of dialogue."[12] It was not until the third season that the backstory surrounding his first wife and daughter's murder was revealed.[13] His relationships with his coworkers were developed, with him becoming something of a father figure to Special Agent Ziva David[14] and Forensic Specialist Abby Sciuto.

Mark Harmon's oldest son Sean has appeared on NCIS portraying a younger version of Gibbs in flashbacks.[9]


In the backstory, Gibbs was born on November 21, 1954, and was shown in the episode "Heartland" to have grown up in Stillwater, Pennsylvania.[3] The town is real, and the scenes in the episode were modeled after Bellisario's hometown of Cokeburg. His father, Jackson Gibbs (played by Ralph Waite), owned and ran the Stillwater General Store. He is named after his father's close friend and partner in the store, Leroy Jethro "LJ" Moore, after they worked together in the coal mines (Winslow Mining Company).[3] In "The Namesake", it is revealed that LJ, a World War II veteran and Montford Point Marine, had influenced the teenaged Gibbs to join the Marines. Gibbs left Stillwater in 1972[3] to join the Marine Corps and had little contact with the place for the next thirty years. In a flashback scene in the episode, as a teenager, Gibbs often provoked violence with defiance to his father, who constantly comes to his unwanted aid with a Winchester rifle. He was also known around the area as a delinquent, as said by the new sheriff, one of the other delinquents during his teenage years, stating, "Funny, never expected to find you on the same side of the law." He met his first wife Shannon (portrayed by both Darby Stanchfield and Aviva Baumann) in Stillwater, who worked at the local women’s clothing store, Ellen’s Dress Shop, speaking to each other for the first time while both waiting for a train. Gibbs was leaving for Marine Combat Training having just graduated from bootcamp. At that first meeting, Shannon mentioned she had thought about creating a set of life rules for herself; Gibbs later incorporated this idea into his own series of around fifty rules that he now lives by (with the rules in the forties and above supposedly used for emergency situations). Gibbs is known by his first name, Leroy, to family and people in his hometown (as well as his ex-wife Diane), whereas at work he is known as Gibbs, Jethro, or simply "Boss".[3] Shannon called him both Gibbs and Jethro.

Gibbs' mother, Ann, is introduced in "Life Before His Eyes", the 200th episode. She was a redhead, like all of Gibbs' wives. While she was dying of cancer, she took her own life by overdose so her family would not have to watch her suffer ("The Namesake").

Gibbs enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1972 and was a military police non-commissioned officer at Camp Lejeune[15] before becoming a Scout Sniper. After graduating from bootcamp, Gibbs shipped out to Camp LeJeune for further training. There he befriended fellow Marine Joan Matteson, but she was one of several marines killed in a helicopter crash in April of 1972 after she was deployed to Okinawa, Japan.

He served on tours of duty in Panama (Operation Just Cause)[16] and with the 1st Battalion 1st Marines in the Persian Gulf (Operation Desert Storm).[17] In the season 6 episode "Deliverance", it is revealed that he was also deployed to Colombia on a classified mission. Not long after returning from the Gulf, he retired from the Marine Corps with the rank of Gunnery Sergeant and joined the Naval Investigative Service (as the Naval Criminal Investigative Service was then called) in August 1992.[18]

As a junior agent, Gibbs was mentored by Mike Franks, and the two became close friends; Franks continued calling him "Probie" even after retirement. After Franks retired, Gibbs rose to become head of his own Major Case Response Team. Before the time in which NCIS is set, Gibbs was described to have traveled extensively on operations, particularly in Eastern Europe.

Gibbs is a highly skilled marksman with both his agency-issued SIG Sauer P228 pistol (which he replaces with a .45 Colt M1911A1 pistol in Season 15) and a sniper rifle. In the season 7 premiere, "Truth or Consequences", he kills the terrorists holding his team hostage from an exceptionally long distance and in "South by Southwest" he outshoots a professional hit-man in an approaching helicopter. His knowledge of the Marine Corps and training as a sniper often comes into use,[19] as shown in the episodes "Ravenous", "Vanished" and "Twenty Klicks" where he uses his wilderness tracking skills and marksmanship to aid the investigation and/or get the team out of trouble.

Gibbs is a private man of few words who discloses little to nothing about his personal life. He avoids discussing his life or past before he joined NCIS, especially to agents and co-workers under him, which leads to his team members constantly speculating over his private life. Aside from his tendency to use military slang, he rarely mentions or speaks at length about his time in the Marine Corps although he is often referred to as "Gunny" by other Navy and Marine officers,[20] occasionally dons a "USMC" hoodie or T-shirt when off duty[21][22][23][24] and has a replica of the iconic Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima photograph framed and mounted above the fireplace in his home.

Gibbs holds service personnel in the armed forces in high esteem and to a higher standard.[25][20][26] He becomes particularly indignant when the guilty party is someone in a position of trust and authority, and he has reacted violently on several occasions when apprehending corrupt high-ranking officers who committed crimes for monetary gain.[27][28]



Gibbs' daughter, Kelly, and her best friend, Maddie.
Gibbs' daughter, Kelly, and her best friend, Maddie.

In the season 6 episode "Heartland", Gibbs' frosty relationship with his father Jackson and the backstory behind it is revealed. His father had rarely been mentioned up to that point and Jackson had not known that Gibbs was a "boss" until Gibbs and his team visited Stillwater to investigate a case.[3] By the end of the episode, they make amends and the two have become closer ever since.[29]

Through a series of episodes over a few years, it becomes clear that Gibbs killed Pedro Hernandez in revenge for the death of his wife Shannon and his daughter Kelly. In the episode "Borderland" (Season 7, episode 22), an unknown conspirator manipulates events so that Abby ends up investigating the murder as a cold case and finds irrefutable proof that Gibbs is responsible. Hernandez' now-grown children Paloma Reynosa, the head of the Reynosa drug cartel after taking her spouse's place when he was killed, and Alejandro Rivera, a high-ranking official of the Mexican Justice Department, appear in the episode "Spider and the Fly". In this episode, Gibbs manipulates Alejandro Rivera into killing Paloma, and Alejandro is subsequently arrested. Shortly thereafter, Director Vance files Abby's report proving that Gibbs killed Hernandez deep in the NCIS evidence room. When Gibbs comes under investigation in the Season 10 finale "Damned If You Do", Vance retrieves the report and shreds it, deciding to permanently bury all leads to the truth so that Gibbs will not be found and convicted of murder.


Gibbs has been married four times, and divorced three (his first wife was killed).

Other romantic relationships

After Shannon and Kelly's deaths and before he married his second wife, it is suggested that Gibbs had an affair with a woman named Rose Tamayo in Colombia. He was on a classified drug interdiction mission as a Marine Scout Sniper, and was wounded during the mission. In "Deliverance", Rose's now-adult son Tomas is introduced as a person of interest in a case. Gibbs' team suspected that he was the boy's father, but Gibbs later reveals to Tomas that Rose was already pregnant when Gibbs came to their village. It is later revealed that the drug lord Gibbs was sent to assassinate was the boy's father.

Gibbs also had a past romantic relationship with the (now deceased) director of NCIS, Jenny Shepard, who was also his partner at the time. Jenny was also a redhead.[33] In the first, second, and third seasons, he was seen in the company of a mysterious (and never-identified) redheaded woman.[10] According to Bellisario, the purpose of "the mysterious redhead" was "to make everyone speculate".[34]

In season four, he has a steady, serious relationship with Army CID agent Lt. Col. Hollis Mann (Susanna Thompson), but their relationship is revealed to be over at the beginning of season five.

In season 7, Gibbs meets lawyer Margaret Allison Hart (Rena Sofer), who worked for an old enemy of Gibbs, Col. Merton Bell. Although Gibbs and Hart oppose each other over several cases, they are also attracted to one another. When it was discovered that Bell was responsible for the death of Lara Macy in connection with the long-ago murder of Pedro Hernandez, Hart turned her back on Bell, showing her allegiance to Gibbs.

In season 9, Gibbs begins a romance with Dr. Samantha Ryan (Jamie Lee Curtis), a psychologist with the DOD PsyOps, who has collaborated with his team in several episodes.[35]

The season 16 episode "Hail and Farewell" revealed that Gibbs was also engaged to a fifth woman, Ellen Wallace, who was thought to have died in the September 11 attacks, but was murdered the night before; Gibbs broke off the engagement about two months before her death.

Since her introduction in the series in season 15 episode 4, forensic psychologist Jack Sloane (Maria Bello) has shared a close bond with Gibbs, to the point that the other team members question if Gibbs and Sloane have "a thing". The two share a kiss in Sloane's final episode (season 18 episode 8).


A decorated Marine, Gibbs is portrayed as a consummate organizer, disciplined and demanding. These traits often put him in a stand-off with other authorities when they exert pressure on his team. He is a no-nonsense agent who displays a continuous urgency about the investigation he pursues, specifically when being given technical information about complex subject matter. The typical response to such information is "Give it to me in English", thus forcing the expert to get to the point, as well as making it easy for the audience to understand. It is a well-known fact with his agents that he dislikes any ambiguous references and terms such as "assuming" and "maybe" when discussing a case or dealing with evidence. He also displays elements of sarcasm, particularly in relation to someone in his company stating something obvious. The typical sarcastic answer "Ya think?" is his preferred retort.

Gibbs' dog tags
Gibbs' dog tags

Awards and citations

At the end of the episode "Murder 2.0", Gibbs was awarded his seventh Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award, but as with the other six times, he did not attend the award ceremony and Tony accepts the medal on his behalf. When Gibbs shows no interest in it, Tony locks it in a box containing several similar presentation cases, all of which were awarded to Gibbs. One of these medals is revealed to have been a Silver Star, which Gibbs bestows on Corporal Damon Werth in the episode "Corporal Punishment". It is revealed in the episode "Hiatus Pt. 1" that Gibbs received the Purple Heart after being injured in Operation Desert Storm during the Gulf War and was in a coma for nineteen days as a result.[40]

Gibbs was shown wearing the following awards and decorations in the episodes "One Shot, One Kill" and "Honor Code".[22][28] Note: The Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Medal ribbon is placed as a U.S. non-military personal decoration after U.S. military unit awards in the order of precedence.

Full list
Awards and citations, as worn
Diver Badge (USMC).jpg
U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps Parachutist Insignia-redone.png
Gold star
Gold star
Bronze star
Silver star
Gold star
Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Awards and citations
Combatant Diver Insignia
US Navy and Marine Corps Parachutist Insignia
Silver Star Purple Heart Navy and Marine Corps
Commendation Medal

with two stars
Combat Action Ribbon Navy Unit Commendation Meritorious Unit Commendation
with one star
Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award
with six stars
Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal
with five stars
Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal
National Defense Service Medal
with one star
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal Southwest Asia Service Medal
with one star
Humanitarian Service Medal Sea Service Deployment Ribbon
with three stars
Overseas Service Ribbon
with one star
United Nations Truce Supervisory
Organization (UNTSO) Medal
Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia) Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait)

Gibbs' Rules

In the episode "Heartland", Gibbs is revealed by flashbacks to have met his first wife, Shannon (portrayed in that episode by Aviva Baumann), while waiting at the Stillwater train platform in summer of 1976, where she tells him about her rules for life that would inspire a similar set of Gibbs' own that he now teaches to his subordinate agents at NCIS - his own series of around fifty rules that he now lives by (with the rules in the forties and above supposedly used for emergency situations).[41]


Early reception was primarily positive. During NCIS' first season on air, Ross Warneke wrote of Gibbs, "He's still wincing from three failed marriages and is a bit of a renegade within the service." He further called Mark Harmon's performance "convincing" and added that the character "has a heart of gold".[42] Two years later, in November 2005, Noel Holston from the Sun-Sentinel said, "NCIS special agent, Jethro Gibbs, is one of those hard-shelled, soft-centered guys' guys Bellisario loves to write, a clear-thinking, decisive leader in whose crankiness his subordinates take an almost masochistic pleasure."[43]

William Bradly of The Huffington Post wrote an opinion piece in 2011 in response to NCIS being voted America's favorite television show in which he commented, "Gibbs is a hard-ass, but a very nice hard-ass, who usually has all the answers thanks to his well-honed 'gut.' And when he doesn't, the quirky science nerds are there to help him out in their reassuringly civvy ways."[44] In 2012, Kyle Smith from the New York Post praised the show's respect for the military and Harmon's portrayal of a Marine.[45]

One reviewer wrote a long analysis:

Never, have I seen a show portray such an accurate description of leadership. Agent Jethro Gibbs is a very intimidating leader; to his agents, and to his suspects. No one wants to mess with Gibbs, and that is no surprise. He is incredibly strong emotionally, and a very loving person to his family. His top qualities are leadership and fearlessness. Gibbs is also very impatient, and easily angered, which don't serve him well in his relationships.

Leadership is Gibbs' best quality. On the outside, he is tough as nails, seemingly impossible to break. On the inside, he is a compassionate person, who is extremely supportive of his friends and family.[46]

In 2011, June Thomas from Slate magazine wrote, "Team leader Gibbs (Mark Harmon) is a coffee-slurping stoic, a former Marine often exasperated by his sometimes-silly underlings." She also discussed the show and its characters' appeal to conservatives: "They're intelligent, hard-working, and devoted...Gibbs is an old-fashioned man: strong and silent, a skilled woodworker who doesn't lock his front door."[13] Alyssa Rosenberg of the Washington Monthly also suggested that Gibbs, "a former Marine with a Bush-like faith in his 'gut'", appeared as a distinctly conservative figure in the series, in contrast to "liberal stand-ins" McGee and Abby Sciuto.[47]

In 2011, it was reported that the role had made Mark Harmon the fourth most popular actor on primetime television. Several other members of the NCIS cast were also listed in the top ten, including Pauley Perrette (Abby Sciuto), Cote de Pablo (Ziva David), David McCallum (Ducky Mallard), and Michael Weatherly (Anthony DiNozzo).[48]


  1. ^ "Voice Of Special Agent Jethro Gibbs – NCIS: The Video Game | Behind The Voice Actors". Behind The Voice Actors. Retrieved September 25, 2017. Check mark indicates role has been confirmed using screenshots of closing credits and other reliable sources((cite web)): CS1 maint: postscript (link)
  2. ^ Marsi, Steve (October 21, 2011). "Gibbs' Ex-Wife on NCIS: First Look!". TV Fanatic. Retrieved October 21, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Heartland". NCIS. Season 6. Episode 4. October 14, 2008. CBS.
  4. ^ Carter, Bill (October 27, 2005). "Behind a Quiet Little Hit, a Reliable Hit Maker". The New York Times. Retrieved June 7, 2013.
  5. ^ NCIS Season 15 Episode 24
  6. ^ Ausiello, Michael (June 21, 2021). "NCIS Shocker: Mark Harmon Eyes Very Limited Presence in Season 19". TVLine. Retrieved September 20, 2021.
  7. ^ Grobar, Matt (October 11, 2021). "Mark Harmon Exits 'NCIS' After More Than 18 Seasons; Showrunner Steve Binder Pays Tribute". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 12, 2021.
  8. ^ a b Keveney, Bill (January 11, 2005). "'NCIS': CBS' invisible success". USA Today. Retrieved June 6, 2008.
  9. ^ a b Keveney, Bill (March 2, 2010). "Team player Mark Harmon leads 'NCIS' cast by example". USA Today. Retrieved June 8, 2013.
  10. ^ a b c Owen, Rob (November 16, 2003). "TV Preview: 'Navy NCIS' attempts to cover new ground". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved June 6, 2008.
  11. ^ "Exclusive: NCIS Cast Gathers for Roundtable Tell-All!". TV Guide. November 6, 2012. Retrieved March 5, 2013.
  12. ^ Chozick, Amy (December 11, 2009). "Deconstructing TV's No. 1 Show". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 7, 2013.
  13. ^ a b Thomas, June (November 9, 2011). "NCIS, WTF?". Slate. Culturebox (column). Retrieved February 23, 2013.
  14. ^ Halterman, Jim (January 14, 2013). "NCIS Exclusive: Gary Glasberg on Vance's Loss, Ziva's Revenge & Beyond". TV Fanatic. Retrieved March 9, 2013.
  15. ^ "My Other Left Foot". NCIS. Season 1. Episode 12. February 3, 2004. CBS.
  16. ^ "Kill Ari (Part I)". NCIS. Season 3. Episode 1. September 20, 2005. CBS.
  17. ^ "Family Secret". NCIS. Season 3. Episode 16. February 28, 2006. 13:56 minutes in. CBS.
  18. ^ "Hiatus (Part II)". NCIS. Season 3. Episode 24. May 16, 2006. 07:20 minutes in. CBS.
  19. ^ "Witch Hunt". NCIS. Season 4. Episode 6. October 31, 2006. CBS.
  20. ^ a b "Enigma". NCIS. Season 1. Episode 15. February 24, 2004. CBS.
  21. ^ "Vanished". NCIS. Season 2. Episode 3. October 12, 2004. CBS.
  22. ^ a b "One Shot, One Kill". NCIS. Season 1. Episode 13. February 10, 2004. 33:27 minutes in. CBS.
  23. ^ "Pyramid". NCIS. Season 8. Episode 24. May 17, 2011. CBS.
  24. ^ "Honor Thy Father". NCIS. Season 11. Episode 24. May 13, 2014. CBS.
  25. ^ "Engaged (Part I)". NCIS. Season 9. Episode 8. November 8, 2011. CBS.
  26. ^ "Head Case". NCIS. Season 3. Episode 15. February 7, 2006. CBS.
  27. ^ "See No Evil". NCIS. Season 2. Episode 1. September 28, 2004. CBS.
  28. ^ a b c "Honor Code". NCIS. Season 3. Episode 7. November 1, 2005. CBS.
  29. ^ "Spider and the Fly". NCIS. Season 8. Episode 1. September 21, 2010. CBS.
  30. ^ "Newborn King". NCIS. Season 9. Episode 11. December 13, 2011. CBS.
  31. ^ Marsi, Steve (November 2, 2011). "NCIS Review: Can Diane Be All Bad?". TV Fanatic. Retrieved March 12, 2013.
  32. ^ "Ex-File". NCIS. Season 5. Episode 3. October 9, 2007. CBS.
  33. ^ "Silver War". NCIS. Season 3. Episode 4. October 11, 2005. CBS.
  34. ^ Bellisario, Donald (October 5, 2004). "TV: JAG and NCIS". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 7, 2013.
  35. ^ "The Missionary Position". NCIS. Season 9. Episode 20. April 10, 2012. CBS.
  36. ^ "Collateral Damage". NCIS. Season 6. Episode 7. November 11, 2008. CBS.
  37. ^ "Out of the Frying Pan". NCIS. Season 8. Episode 18. March 22, 2011. CBS.
  38. ^ "Ice Queen". JAG. Season 8. Episode 20. April 22, 2003. CBS.
  39. ^ "Knockout". NCIS. Season 6. Episode 18. March 17, 2009. 13:49 minutes in.
  40. ^ "Hiatus (Part I)". NCIS. Season 3. Episode 23. May 9, 2006. 24:07 minutes in. CBS.
  41. ^ Gibbs' Rules: The Complete List From NCIS (Media notes). CBS.
  42. ^ Warneke, Ross (May 13, 2004). "Death of Sunday movies". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved June 6, 2008.
  43. ^ Holston, Noel (November 29, 2005). "Cowboy Mentality Helps Ncis Grow In Numbers". Sun-Sentinel. Broward County, Florida. Retrieved June 7, 2013.
  44. ^ Bradley, William (May 18, 2011). "NCIS: America's Favorite Show and What It Tells Us". The Huffington Post. Retrieved July 23, 2015.
  45. ^ Smith, Kyle (May 12, 2012). "Why 'NCIS' is TV's most popular show". New York Post. Retrieved July 23, 2015.
  46. ^ Lipovetsky, Josh (November 10, 2009). "NCIS Character Analysis – Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs". Film Insight. Archived from the original on November 14, 2009. Retrieved March 8, 2013.
  47. ^ Rosenberg, Alyssa (May–June 2011). "NCIS: Bureaucrats with Guns". Washington Monthly. Archived from the original on May 14, 2011. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
  48. ^ Lawson, Catherine (August 4, 2011). "'NCIS' Star Pauley Perrette Named Most Popular Primetime TV Star". The Huffington Post. Retrieved February 23, 2013.