Face of Defense: Enlisted Marine Returns as Officer
By Marine Corps Cpl. Samuel A. Nasso
Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C., Feb. 4, 2011 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.
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 photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“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.”