Enlistment and Basic Training
Interviewee: Alex Lemons
Alex Lemons was born in Provo, Utah but spent most of his childhood in Colorado. Alex’s family moved back to Utah in 1994 and he graduated from Alta High School in 1998. He went to Westminster College and eventually graduated with a double major in History and English. After he graduated he began to think of going on to graduate school but wanted to do some kind of service first. Originally he looked to the Forest Service or Peace Corps but after the 9/11 attacks he felt a need to serve his country in the armed forces. Alex went to boot camp as an enlisted man instead of an officer because he wanted the enlisted experience. He explains feeling very isolated from others in boot camp because of his age, but also talks about the advantages of being older. Once he completed his School of Infantry he was assigned to 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 1st Marine regiment, 1st Marine Division which he deployed with in February of 2003.
From the moment he touched the ground in Kuwait, Alex describes the sense of urgency he felt in the drills and preparation. During his deployment, he perceived that the Iraqi military was so dilapidated it seemed as if it hadn't existed since 1991. Towards the end of his first tour he began to increasingly feel frustrated by the situation in Iraq because of the looting and the sense that he was in the position of a babysitter. When he got home, Alex decided he needed more independence than Alpha Company was giving him so he joined a sniper platoon and passed sniper school on his first try.
He was deployed to Iraq with his Sniper Platoon in 2004 for a deployment that he describes as much more combat intensive than his prior tour. He explains the tactics and experience of fighting in cities such as Najaf, Ramadi, and Fallujah. Personal encounters with Iraqis and had become more hostile since his deployment in 2003. His return to the U.S. in 2005 was not easy as he recounts experiencing severe symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He came close to dropping into the inactive reserve but was convinced by a junior Marine to do otherwise. Once back with his unit he was deployed to Kuwait in February of 2006. He began to experience problems with older, cold war era veterans who out ranked the more experienced veterans of Iraq. He also explains the changing political situation in Iraq and the dynamics of the reintroduced elections. During this deployment his unit acted as a reserve unit in Kuwait, reinforcing other units.
Upon his return to the U.S. Alex was offered a recruiter position and decided that he would not reenlist and instead go into the Inactive Reserves. Unfortunately, the Inactive Reserves was one of the places the Marines were getting the men they needed to fill ranks and he, for what would be the the last time, was deployed to Iraq. He first went to Camp Lejeune in 2007 where he received a good deal of prepatory training for his new role in Iraq. During this deployment he worked with two other Captains reporting directly to General Petraeus. He worked closely with the 8th Division to improve the situation around Diwaniyah; maintaining control of the city and especially keeping the roads clear of IED’s. Alex did similar work, again under General Petraeus, in Basra and Sadr City.