He was born Leroy Jethro Gibbs and grew up in Stillwater, PA, located in the anthracite coal region. His father, Jackson "Jack" Gibbs, a widower, still lives there where he runs a small grocery store. He reveals to Tony that he taught Jethro how to drive. (Heartland
An experienced former U.S. Marine scout sniper who served in Operation Just Cause and Operation Desert Storm and reached the rank of Gunnery Sergeant, Agent Gibbs is a highly skilled investigator and interrogator endowed with virtually infallible intuition. He uses these skills to his advantage while working on a case. He also tends to think out of the command structure if that helps him.
During his service in the USMC, Gibbs earned a Purple Heart for a head wound suffered during Desert Storm. Gibbs' awards include Silver star, Purple Heart, Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Commendation, Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon, United Nations Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait), and Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia).
At one point, Gibbs also served as Military Police Officer in Jacksonville, NC(Camp Lejeune).
Throughout the first three seasons, much of Gibbs' personal history had been kept a mystery even from his NCIS colleagues. It was known, initially, that Gibbs had been married and divorced three times and that he once had a romantic relationship with the recently appointed director of NCIS, Jenny Shepard
. In the first season, he was also occasionally seen in the company of a mysterious redheaded woman, suggesting an active personal life away from NCIS, even though his colleagues were never able to identify the woman (in the episode My Other Left Foot
it is revealed that Gibbs prefers redheads). The only evidence of an active personal life is his relentless commitment to the building of wooden boats in his basement using only hand tools. As of the fourth season, it is alleged by Director Shepard that he should now have a fleet of four. Gibbs revealed that they were named after his wives and burnt when the relationship ended. Gibbs' last boat that he's been working on is named "The Kelly," after his daughter
In the third season finale, "Hiatus" (part 1
and part 2
), numerous secrets about Gibbs' past were revealed. It was learned that he had been married four times; that he had had a child with his first wife; and that both were killed by a Mexican drug dealer while Gibbs was serving in Desert Storm in 1991. Upon his return, the NCIS lead investigator (Mike Franks
) at the time secretly provided Gibbs with information as to the Mexican's whereabouts; Gibbs subsequently tracked down the man and used his sniper skills to kill him. The episode also revealed that Jenny Shepard was Gibbs' partner when she joined NCIS, before their romantic involvement. In the fourth season episode Sandblast
, Gibbs has become involved with Army Lt.Col. Hollis Mann
, who works for United States Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID), the U.S. Army's version of NCIS, leading several of his colleagues to speculate that she could end up being his fourth ex-wife.
During Desert Storm, Gibbs was caught in an explosion which left him in a coma for 19 days. In 2006, another explosion, caused by a terrorist's bomb, likewise left him in a coma, followed by a period of selective amnesia in which the trauma of his wife and child's death 15 years earlier caused Gibbs to forget much of his life after that point. In fact, he nearly cries at one point because he misses them so much (this is unusual for Gibbs, who is usually unemotional except for anger and amusement). With the aid of his former junior partner, Jenny Shepard
, Ducky Mallard
, and finally Ziva David
, Gibbs is able to regain his memories. When senior administration officials are unwilling to prevent a terrorist bombing from destroying a freighter and a navy vessel, Gibbs resigns from NCIS and as the third season ends, he takes up residence in Mexico with his former mentor, Mike Franks. At the start of the fourth season, however, he returns to Washington in order to help Ziva clear her name after she is framed for the murder of three men; although he subsequently returns to Mexico, the second episode of the season (Escaped
) sees him once again returning to NCIS.
Since Gibbs' return, Shepard has been keeping certain NCIS operational details secret from him, at one point ordering that all the view screens in the control room "go dark" when Gibbs enters in order to prevent him from seeing details of an ongoing operation. When Gibbs asks Shepard about this, she replies that the operations are "need to know, and you don't need to know". Exactly why Gibbs is being excluded has yet to be revealed.
Gibbs tends to be reticent, and reluctant to reveal his feelings.
He is mostly called "Gibbs" by colleagues, "boss" by Tony
, and "Jethro" by Jenny Shepard and Ducky Mallard, but his father still calls him "Leroy" (Heartland
He has been married four times to red-haired women; his later three marriages all ended badly. The first wife was murdered, one ex-wife attacked him with a golf club and now stalks him on the anniversary of their split, and the other attacked him with a baseball bat. In season 5 his third ex-wife appears and is identified as Stephanie Bronwen Flynn
. Jenny Shepard, another former love interest, is also a redhead. A couple of very early episodes suggested an attraction existed between Gibbs and Kate Todd
, but any possibility of this going beyond flirting and jokes evaporated when he indicated to her that it was a bad idea for NCIS operatives to have a relationship (a possible reference to Jenny Shepard). Gibbs' relationship with Ziva is one of trust although he tends to keep her on a bit of a short leash because he knows how dangerous she can be. Gibbs has also had to remind her more than once that suspects are needed to be brought in alive.
During the first season, Gibbs develops a habit of smacking his subordinates on the head if they do or say something foolish. Tony is the most frequent target of this, though most of the others have all endured their share of smacking as well. Gibbs is not above giving himself the same treatment; in a third season episode (Family Secrets
) he is seen smacking his own head when he chooses to tamper with evidence in order to protect a marine's career. In the season three finale, Hiatus, one flashback shows that Gibbs got this idea from his own boss back when he was still a "probie". Gibbs explains that a "slap to the face would be humiliating; the back of the head's a wake-up call." (The Bone Yard
Gibbs is fond of Abby
and regularly bribes her with her favorite "Caff-Pow!" beverage. He is so fond of her, in fact, that when a former date of hers stalks her, Gibbs threatens him by saying "The only reason you're still able to walk is because I never heard about you until today!" Abby is the only person to whom Gibbs regularly shows any affection, usually in the form of a hug or a kiss on the cheek, and she reciprocates just as much. Similarly, she is often the only one who can get away with teasing him. He is particularly protective of her, almost failing to control his anger when she is nearly killed in an episode of season four, Driven
. Professionally, he has a lot of faith in her knowledge of forensics, often relying on her for answers and help in solving cases; he once declared that in the lab, "Abby doesn't have accidents."
Gibbs can be extremely charming in an understated way and has a dry sense of humor. He is unforgiving of his or his colleagues' mistakes and demands high standards of himself and his team.
He has a coffee addiction. He also appears to be farsighted, as early episodes of the series reveal that he has difficulty reading fine print, though he refuses to wear reading glasses.
Gibbs is usually portrayed as a complex man of mystery and intrigue. He likes to use his Marine training to give him an advantage over other people, such as when he silently appears behind people.
When it was revealed that his wife and daughter were murdered by a drug runner, Ducky casually states that they can close the book on the drug runner's disappearance, because there is no way that Jethro would have allowed the man to remain alive. In the same episode it was revealed that Jethro gained access to the case file, crossed the border into Mexico, and killed the man with a sniper rifle.
Whenever he needs to have a private talk with someone, usually FBI Special Agent Tobias Fornell
, but also occasionally Ziva and others with whom Gibbs confides, he takes them to his "Conference Room," which is basically just the main elevator of NCIS headquarters with the emergency brake pulled.
Gibbs has displayed an uncanny awareness of his co-workers activities. An oft-repeated scene has Gibbs walking in on his team-members having an off-topic conversation: even though they immediately break off to focus on the case at hand, Gibbs drops a remark later on referring back to the earlier conversation. In Escaped
, Tony attempts to replicate this action by "listening in" on their conversation with a cell phone and an opened line. However, Gibbs trumps him after his attempt.
His taste in "pop culture" is rarely discussed; however, in the series pilot, he is revealed to have seen the movie Air Force One
with Harrison Ford
. A recurring theme is how out of step Gibbs is with popular culture.
In Season 4 Gibbs has been shown to be able to speak Russian.
He also has a tombstone behind the wall on his cubicle. Presumably it is his wife's or daughter's.
Gibbs has very little knowledge of technology and shows little patience when exposed to tech talk. He believes everything can be rebooted. He can never understand McGee's or Abby's technological talk and sometimes can get angry when they do not explain their findings in simple language which Gibbs can understand. However, Gibbs still has some understanding based within the field of technology. He has trashed the computer on his desk six times, before the NCIS technicians realized that he was "smacking them to make them go faster." On occasion, however, it is suggested that this apparent lack of knowledge may, on occasion, be a ruse. Although he is rarely seen using a computer, he has no less than five computer monitors on his desk.
He has been known to communicate in American Sign Language with Abby Sciuto.
Gibbs has some rules that he teaches to his co-workers. It is implied in (Heartland
) that his first wife Shannon was the one who introduced Gibbs to the concept of having a numbered set of rules or "a code to live by". Her first rule or third rule (she's unsure) is to "never date a lumberjack". More than once, he has been urged to write them down, and we see in Rule Fifty-one
that he has done just that, on scraps of paper as they come to him.
Gibbs' rules, as revealed in the show are:
1: Never let suspects stay together (Yankee White
) / Never screw over your partner. (Blowback
2: Always wear gloves at a crime scene (Yankee White
3: Don't believe what you're told. Double check (Yankee White
) / Never be unreachable (Deception
4: If you have a secret, the best thing is to keep it to yourself. The second-best is to tell one other person if you must. There is no third-best (Blowback
5: Don't waste good (Baltimore
6: Never say you're sorry, it's a sign of weakness (finally given a number in Restless
7: Always be specific when you lie (Reveille
8: Never take anything for granted (Probie
8: Never assume (Rekindled
9: Never go anywhere without a knife (various episodes)
10: Never get involved personally on a case (Need to Know
11: When the job is done, the job is done (Semper Fidelis
12: Never date a coworker (Enigma
13: Never, ever involve lawyers (Collateral Damage
14: Bend the line, don't break it (Anonymous Was a Woman
15: Always work as a team (Leap of Faith
16: If someone thinks they have the upper hand, break it (Pyramid
18: It's better to seek forgiveness than ask permission (Silver War
22: Never, ever bother Gibbs in interrogation (Smoked
23: Never mess with a Marine's coffee if you want to live (Forced Entry
27: There are two ways to follow someone:
- First way, they never notice you
- Second way, they only notice you (Rule Fifty-one
35: Always watch the watchers (Baltimore
36: If you feel like you're being played, you probably are. (Nature of the Beast
38: Your case, your lead (Bounce
40: If it seems like someone is out to get you, they are. (Borderland
42: Don't ever apologize to someone who just sucker punched you. (Psych Out
44: First things first; hide the women and children (Rule Fifty-one
45 (interpreted): Clean up your own mess (Rule Fifty-one
51: Sometimes you're wrong (Rule Fifty-one
69: Never trust a woman that doesn't trust her man.(Devil's Triangle
There is also a rule without a number: "Never marry a woman who eats more than you" (although this may be a DiNozzo rule).