Face of Defense: Enlisted Marine Returns as Officer

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. — Marine Corps Capt. Joshua H. Wei­land grew up in a typ­i­cal Amer­i­can fam­i­ly in Park Falls, Wis. Not much more than a cou­ple of inter­sec­tions in the mid­dle of a nation­al for­est, the town gave Wei­land an envi­ron­ment that fit his per­son­al­i­ty.

EA-6B Prowler
Marine Corps Capt. Joshua W. Wei­land, cen­ter, stands in front of an EA-6B Prowler on Dec. 10, 2010, with Marines he served with dur­ing his enlist­ed ser­vice.
U.S. Marine Corps pho­to by Cpl. Samuel A. Nas­so
Click to enlarge

“My best friend from child­hood and I honed our hunt­ing and fort-build­ing skills in the woods,” he said.

After high school, Wei­land con­tem­plat­ed what he’d do for a liv­ing. He even­tu­al­ly con­tact­ed a Marine Corps recruiter to vis­it him at his par­ents’ home.

“What time is he going to be here?” asked his father, Norm, in ref­er­ence to the recruiter.

Until then, Wei­land said, his fam­i­ly didn’t have a clue that he was con­sid­er­ing join­ing the Marines. His father was more than proud of him for join­ing the mil­i­tary, he added, but he want­ed to ensure that he was doing it for the right rea­sons.

“He told me to find a skill that would fol­low me for the rest of my life,” Wei­land said.

Weiland’s father, Norm, enlist­ed in the Marine Corps in 1965, serv­ing as a KY-8 radio tech­ni­cian and a heli­copter door gun­ner. Sta­tioned at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendle­ton, Calif., mul­ti­ple loca­tions in Viet­nam, and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. Weiland’s father trav­eled and expe­ri­enced quite a bit in his four years of ser­vice.

“He nev­er real­ly told me to join or expect­ed me to join. It’s always what I’ve want­ed to do,” Wei­land said. “I remem­ber when I was 9 or 10 see­ing my dad’s box of medals, and I was like a kid in a can­dy store. It was def­i­nite­ly a deter­min­ing fac­tor.”

Like his father, Wei­land joined the Marines. In 1996, he was assigned to his first duty sta­tion, Marine Tac­ti­cal Elec­tron­ic War­fare Squadron 4, as an EA-6B Prowler air­craft tech­ni­cian, at the age of 19. He deployed three times dur­ing his first enlist­ment, twice to Aviano Air Base, Italy, in sup­port of Oper­a­tion Delib­er­ate Guard and Oper­a­tion Allied Force and once to Japan.

As a sergeant in the Marine Corps and with time dwin­dling away on his first term, Wei­land had anoth­er impor­tant deci­sion to make. He decid­ed to depart the Marine Corps and began col­lege.

“I didn’t like what I was study­ing and real­ized the Corps was a bet­ter fit for me, but I knew if I came back in that I prob­a­bly wouldn’t be a non­com­mis­sioned offi­cer, so I had to do some­thing dif­fer­ent,” he said. “So I did some research, talked to my dad quite a bit, and decid­ed on the pla­toon lead­ers course in 2003.”

Com­mis­sioned as a sec­ond lieu­tenant in 2006 with a degree in phys­i­cal geog­ra­phy from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin, Wei­land head­ed to flight school.

“I was sit­ting there going through the num­bers with a few of my bud­dies at flight school,” Wei­land said, “and I real­ized there was a decent chance for me to go to Marine Air­craft Group 14 again.”

Wei­land found him­self assigned to Marine Tac­ti­cal Elec­tron­ic War­fare Squadron 4 again, this time as an offi­cer.

“I thought it was a joke at first, but it wasn’t, and it start­ed to sink in like I nev­er left in the first place,” he said. “I thought sar­cas­ti­cal­ly to myself, ‘Oh I’m back at this place again.’”

His first time with the Sea­hawks was as a Prowler elec­tri­cian, and the sec­ond time as an elec­tron­ic coun­ter­mea­sures offi­cer.

“I spent four years of my life main­tain­ing the air­craft, when all I want­ed to do was see what it is like to fly in it,” he said. “Then I real­ized I had to go through flight school just for that.”

Thir­teen years after he first stepped into the squadron’s hangar, he returned to see sev­er­al famil­iar, albeit old­er, faces -– Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Daen J. Glover, for exam­ple. “Cap­tain Wei­land was always some­one I looked up to and tried to emu­late when he was enlist­ed,” said Glover, who has known Wei­land for 12 years.

“I was con­fused when he got out as a sergeant and went to col­lege, because he was an out­stand­ing Marine,” Glover con­tin­ued. “But I’m glad he decid­ed to come back, and now both our squadron and the Marine Corps are bet­ter off with a Marine of his cal­iber.”

Wei­land said his life is pros­per­ous, as he is hap­pi­ly mar­ried to his wife, Neva, and he has three chil­dren: Bran­don, Aidon and Eliz­a­beth. He also has a unit full of old work bud­dies as he pur­sues a pro­fes­sion that allows him to fly and work with young Marines.

“I def­i­nite­ly have a unique per­spec­tive of what it is to be an enlist­ed Marine,” Wei­land said. “It has ben­e­fit­ted me as an offi­cer, and real­ly all you need to do is think about it like a lance cor­po­ral does, and you’ll get the job done.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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