Going from Young Marine to U.S. Marine
By Staff Sgt. Jonathan E. Agee
| | July 29, 2003
RECRUITING STATION SPRINGFIELD, MA --
He promised not to cry while addressing his detachment for the final time. He had spent the last seven years devoted to the program and now it was time for him to advance. During those seven years he attained the rank of sergeant major -- and if it weren't for the red and gold patch over the left breast pocket of his uniform, most people would mistake him for a Marine and not a Young Marine.
Luis A. Alicea could not hold back tears during his final speech, despite his promise. Seven years worth of hard work and dedication came to a close, and Alicea's emotions got the best of him.
His tone carried a strong confidence, yet his words were soft and memorable. He assured everyone in the command that he loved them and that they would do great in the future. He reinforced some of the Young Marine values and stressed the importance of doing what is right.
Alicea set the bar high for young Marines. From his appearance to his conduct, he emulated everything a Young Marine should be. His fellow Young Marines looked up to him, and he expected only the best from his Young Marines. He gave nothing short of 100 percent of himself.
"We build better citizens for America, and that's our whole common goal," said Alicea. "We try to keep good kids good, keep them drug free, out of trouble and in school."
Alicea has been through several leadership schools in the Young Marines including a foreign weapons and tactics school in England where he graduated first out of 300 students. As a Young Marine, Alicea has also learned much of the knowledge a Marine would be expected to know in recruit training. "You have to know everything a Marine knows, about Marine Corps history, traditions, courtesy and customs and respect," said Alicea.
"He is very dedicated to this program," said Sgt. Maj. Edward C. Mitrook, Westover Young Marines commanding officer, and retired Marine Corps sergeant major. "He is always available and makes sure his young Marines are top notch ... he is part of the reason for this units success ... the kids look up to him."
His depth of knowledge and willingness to succeed earned him second place as the Young Marine of the Year. But according to Alicea, personal winnings are not as important to him as team success.
"I like to see the whole team succeed ... I was the company 1st sergeant when this unit won unit of the year in the Nation and I was very proud of that," said Alicea. "I could get Young Marine of the year and I would not be as happy as I would be when they got unit of the year, because I like to see everyone succeed, not just myself."
"He is an outstanding Young Marine," said Lawrence Jackson Jr., Young Marine company first sergeant. "He is the one I have always looked up to from the beginning. He's always squared away, he is always locked on, his knowledge is outstanding, he knows his drill and he is just an outstanding Young Marine."
Most everyone who knows Alicea expects him to do very well as a Marine, but making the transition from sergeant major to private is not the easiest thing to accomplish. Alicea is scheduled to depart for Marine Corps recruit training this June.
"It's going to be quite a change, but it is nothing that will be that hard for me, because I can adjust really quick," said Alicea. "I know the difference between Young Marines and Marines. This (Young Marines) is training for what is coming up in the future. I'm physically and emotionally there. I just need to get myself mentally ready. Once I get there I know my place."
"There is no doubt in my mind he will graduate honor man from recruit training," said Gunnery Sgt. Richard N. Buer, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of RSS Springfield, where Alicea enlisted in the Marines. "He has a lot of natural leadership ability inside him and he has a lot of potential."
"He is an outstanding Young Marine," said Staff Sgt. Jose M. Infante, Young Marine staff member. "He is very motivated and knowledgeable. I have actual Marines come up to me thinking he is a Marine ... He takes charge and is always willing to give of himself. As the sergeant major of the unit he takes care of the recruits all the way up to the next highest enlisted."
Alicea attributes much of his success in life to the Young Marines. After graduating from recruit training, he plans on returning the favor by becoming a Young Marine staff member wherever he is stationed. Until then, he has his focus set on going from Young Marine to United States Marine this summer.