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The Military View Column: Another Marine from our home town

Jerry Hogan

By Heath resident Jerry Hogan, US Army Lt. Col. (retired). Christmas is over. The New Year is upon us and its back to school, work, or whatever we do on a regular basis. But for Austin Alexander there really isn’t any “regular basis,” for Austin is still in the process of learning how to be a Marine.

Austin, son of Debbie Alexander, who teaches kindergarten in Jones Elementary, and John Alexander, who is a police sergeant with the city of Mesquite, graduated from Rockwall High School in June of 2009. Since he had already enlisted in the Marine Corps while in school, it was off to Boot Camp in San Diego, California, where he spent the next thirteen weeks.

Boot Camp is a time-honored ritual for any new Marine recruit. As one source puts it, “This is where discipline will begin to be instilled in recruits by disorienting them and effectively cutting them off from civilian habits and mindsets, as well as reinforcing the mental and physical standards needed to perform under stressful situations that will be simulated in follow on training and in combat situations. Here the goal is designed to enable the recruits to learn to survive in combat and to overcome unexpected situations that would cause injury or death.”

The actual training is broken up into four phases: general introduction to the USMC, field skills and weapons training, skill enhancement, and the final exam phase which includes an extensive field exercise where all of the skills learned by the recruits are brought into play.

And as Private First Class Alexander said, “Boot Camp was a big change for me. The hardest was finding the motivation to get up at 4:00AM or whatever time we got up those mornings and lead the platoon on what we had planned for the day. (Alexander was selected as the recruit guide flag bearer and that is why he was charged with “leading the platoon.”) When the platoon finally came together during the last phase of the training, the end of training was incredible. I would swell up with pride knowing I had a huge impact on helping get us all there together and seeing us all in action.”

When I asked Austin what had changed since he left Rockwall, he replied, “The only thing that changed for me was that I wasn’t a civilian anymore. In Boot Camp I didn’t have the privilege to just sleep or eat candy or even have any privacy in my own bed. All of these little things were replaced with my becoming part of a Band of Brothers where we would all give our lives for each other. Joining the Marines was the best decision I ever made. It has helped make me the person I wanted to be.”

Alexander graduated as the honor graduate from his recruit platoon. He now is going through advanced infantryman’s training at Camp Pendleton, California. He will probably be headed for Afghanistan before next Christmas. Tell him “Thanks” if you see him on our streets before he deploys.

Jerry Hogan is a retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel who volunteers to write this column. He can be reached at 214-394-4033 or jerryhogan@sbcglobal.net

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