Show Your Colors: My Transition from the Marines to the Army

Show Your Colors: My Transition from the Marines to the Army

Show Your Colors: My Transition from the Marines to the Army

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At AMU, we don’t field sports teams and you won’t find a stadium with our name on it. We’re a worldwide team of students and alumni who proudly serve their nation and their communities. AMU’s slogan, Our Athletes Don’t Play Games, illustrates how every day is game day for our students and alumni.

For our fourth story in the #OADPG series, we are taking a jump with the Army. We encourage you to show your pride, like Linwood Harrison, and your colors. Check out the new AMU ‘athletes’ gear today!  A portion of the proceeds will go to Team Semper Fi.

By Linwood Harrison
Alumnus, American Military University

As the son of a World War II and Korean War veteran, I listened to my father’s countless firsthand recollection of battles in the South Pacific and Korean Peninsula. My father served in the U.S. Navy, but he would often speak of how he saw brave Marines depart to engage in some of the most violent battles in military history.

He loved old World War II movies. Eventually, I began to love these movies and spent most of my childhood imagining that I was one of those brave Marines. My father passed away when I was only 13 years old, and I remember watching his favorite movies repeatedly to find comfort during a difficult time.

First, the Marine Corps

My senior year in high school was pretty typical. Friday football games, fast cars, and school occupied most of my time. I was excited when colleges offered me a few athletic scholarships, but after having a heart-to-heart conversation with my mother, I realized that due to a lack of funding college was not in my immediate future.

I often stayed after school as a member of my school’s Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corp (MJROTC). One day, the senior military science professor asked me about my plans after high school. I did not have solid plans or direction until he pointed out that with my four years of MJROTC—along with my good health and grades—that I should join the Marines. The next week, I walked into the Marine recruiter’s office with one goal in mind. I wanted to be a Marine rifleman like John Wayne.

After graduating high school, I was shipped off to attend one of the toughest recruit training programs in the military, at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, S.C. Life at Parris Island was tough but also rewarding. Upon graduating from boot camp, I attended the Marine Corps School of Infantry (SOI), which brought me one step closer to life in the infantry.

Career Moves in the Marines

A week prior to graduating from SOI, an instructor gave me orders to see the career planner. The career planner basically told me the Marines recruited too many infantrymen, and I was about to experience my first taste of downsizing. I was given the option to choose from a list of other jobs including military police, finance or aviation supply. I chose aviation supply to help prepare me to run my own business. After completing the Marine Aviation Supply Course, I was assigned to the Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point, N.C.

The first person I met was the squadron sergeant major. He reviewed my record book and told me my job as an aviation supply clerk was just as important as the riflemen serving on the forward edge of the battle area. He explained that I was part of an air and ground combat unit, and we fight as one lethal force.

I took pride in all my duties until the day I left the Marine Corps. I enjoyed delivering parts to squadrons because I was supporting pilots and riflemen defending our nation’s freedom on foreign soil. Although I was not a gung-ho rifleman like John Wayne, I was part of “the few, the proud, the Marines.” With my newfound confidence, sense of purpose and belonging, I believed I could achieve any goal.

Coming Full Circle with John Wayne and the Army

Like all good things, my enlistment in the Marines came to an end. Over the next six months, I spent time looking for employment and playing around with college applications. One day, after dropping my girlfriend off for her classes at East Carolina University’s College of Nursing, I found my way into the Army recruiting office. While the recruiter was talking, I glanced over his shoulder and saw a poster of John Wayne that read, “Follow Me,” with a quote from the movie “A Bridge Too Far.” Immediately, I turned to the recruiter and asked, “What do I have to do to be a paratrooper?”

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Linwood is pictured in U.S. Army colors for AMU’s new ‘Our Athletes Don’t Play Games’ collection.

I reviewed a list of only a few jobs and chose to enlist in the U.S. Army as a construction equipment mechanic with the airborne option. Due to the extensive boot camp training I received in the Marine Corps, I was able to skip Army boot camp and head straight to construction equipment maintenance school. I cycled through airborne school twice, after finding out I had pneumonia during my first attempt.

Finally, it was jump week, the last week of airborne school. In order to receive my jump wings, I had to execute five successful jumps with one of those taking place at night. Prior to my first jump, an instructor came to me and said, “Harrison, I heard you were a Marine.” I replied, “Yes, sergeant airborne, once a Marine, always a Marine.” To that he replied, “Son, when you jump out of that moving aircraft, I want to hear you say, BE ALL YOU CAN BE!”

After airborne school, I was assigned to the 307th Engineer Battalion, which is part of the 82nd Airborne Division. The welcome briefing was given by the division command sergeant major. Ironically, his welcome speech mirrored that of my marine sergeant major.

Once again, I was reminded that I was part of a team, and no matter what my occupational skill was, I was an equal partner in the success of the 82nd Airborne Division.

Later, I became a U.S. Army mechanic and then a military intelligence analyst. Since then, I have worked several joint assignments as an analyst. During one particular deployment, I served as the non-commissioned officer in charge of a joint unit consisting of Marines, sailors, airmen and soldiers, including two airmen from the United Kingdom. I remember my first speech was about teamwork, similar to that of my previous sergeant majors from the Marines and the 82nd Airborne. In my case, the team expanded to include all of NATO.

This past Veterans Day, I turned to the movie channel and watched all of those old World War II classics my father loved. I heard parts in both movies that I missed during my childhood and teenage years. In both films, John Wayne briefly talked about how his men trained and were willing to fight and die together.

Always remember, before you join the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard or Marines, that you’re part of the U.S. military. So, which branch is better? At the end of the day, all that matters is how all members of the U.S. military work together as one big team. This, we’ll defend.

Ready to Show Your Colors?

A portion of proceeds from the sale of AMU Campus Store items will be donated to Team Semper Fi. This charity supports recovery through sport for more than 1,000 servicemembers from all branches of the military who have overcome significant challenges in their service to our country, and have embraced the fighting, athletic spirit on their road to recovery.

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