MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (Dec. 10, 2010) --
What separates one Marine from another? Perhaps a pair of sunglasses, ginger-red hair, a soft-spoken voice, a crisp haircut or maybe the way he wears his uniform. It could be his experience and the way he leads his junior Marines. Maybe it’s that he’s family-oriented, enjoys the outdoors and grew up in a small, tightly knit town.
Born in Park Falls, Wis., in 1977, Joshua H. Weiland grew up in a typical American family in a typical American town. With not much more than a couple of intersections in the middle of a national forest, Weiland was provided with the environment that fit his personality.
“My best friend from childhood and I honed our hunting and fort-building skills in the woods,” he said.
Weiland grew up with two sisters and one brother. With one older sibling and two younger, Weiland said he experienced a typical American upbringing.
As the years passed, it came to that important time in life following high school when one has to decide what to do with his life. And just like that, Weiland contemplated until he began to suspiciously go about his business for a few days – that is until one particular day, when he hung up the phone.
“What time is he going to be here,” his father, Norm, said, in reference to a recruiter. “They didn’t have a clue that I was considering it,” Weiland said.
He continued to say that his father was more than proud of him for joining the military, 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 continued. “And also to not make the same mistake he did.”
Norm Weiland enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1965, serving as a KY-8 radio technician and a Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 26 door gunner. Stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., multiple locations in Vietnam, and Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Norm traveled and experienced quite a bit in his four years.
“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 nine 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.”
In 1996 destiny called and Weiland 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. Weiland 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 an important decision to make and, in turn, decided to walk away from the 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 an 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 2nd 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, and I realized there was a decent chance for me to go to Marine Aircraft Group 14 again.”
And again, as fate would have it, Weiland found himself assigned to VMAQ-4, for the second time but 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 continued. “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. How can you beat that?
“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 VMAQ-4 hangar, he returned to see several familiar, albeit older, faces.
Take Staff Sgt. Daen J. Glover for example.
“Capt. 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 and worked with him while he was enlisted. “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.”
According to Weiland, his life is prosperous as he is happily married to his wife Neva; has three children – Brandon, Aidon and Elizabeth; a unit full of old work buddies; a profession that allows him to fly and a ton of new, young Marines.
“I definitely have a unique perspective of what it is to be an enlisted Marine,” Weiland added. “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.”