News: The Champion: in and out of uniform
By Sgt. Sarah Scully
40th Public Affairs Detachment
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait (November 8, 2006) --- As a child, he knew what kind of man he wanted to become. But at the age of 19, he woke up one morning and realized he had ventured down the wrong path. So he left his belongings and his old life behind – and he joined the Army.
A decade later, Sgt. 1st Class Jason Alexander won recognition as the best noncommissioned officer in the Army, while supporting Third Army/U.S. Army Central in Kuwait. The coveted title – Department of the Army's NCO of the Year – went to a man who had attained the standards and dreams set in place by a young boy growing up in a California gang infested neighborhood.
"As a kid, you picture yourself as a man – good family, good job, good life," said Alexander, NCO in charge of the Troop Medical Clinic at Camp Arifjan. "From the day I was in basic [training], I knew I'd be a Soldier until the day I died."
So how did he find his way? Alexander credits the strong foundation of values his parents and friends instilled and the flexibility to figure out what he wanted out of life as the main influences to his success. Born December 1976, Alexander lived in Upper Darby, Penn., a suburb of Philadelphia.
After moving to Orange County, Calif., his parents divorced in 1983. Shuffled between parents and living in poverty, Alexander still maintained an upbeat attitude.
"I think it made me a stronger person," said the 29-year-old Alexander. "When you've dealt with a lot of adversity, you learn to look at the positives."
Given an early nickname of "Smiley," he was a happy child who didn't really comprehend the threat of gang violence in his apartment complex – which left plenty of time for a carefree lifestyle of boogie boarding and baseball. But when the 15-year-old moved back to Philadelphia to live with his father, Alexander went a little wild. As a teenager, he experimented with green and blue hair, put in a tongue ring and wore street clothes.
He learned leadership and responsibility early on by getting his first job soon after moving to the city – as cashier for a fast-food restaurant.
They put him at the counter because of his smile and charm. Quickly gaining another job as a concert promoter in disreputable areas of the city, Alexander graduated from high school and continued the same lifestyle.
Until he woke up July 1,1996 and went to see the recruiter.
"I just knew that I needed to get out of there – things were just out of control," said Alexander. "I think God was like, 'Hey, Jason, you need to wake up and go join the Army.'"
He joined up as a combat medic and left for basic a few days after visiting the recruiter.
"I was shocked when he called to notify us that he joined the Army," said Mae Robertson, Alexander's mother. "Perhaps he was looking for an adventure or just saw an opportunity in the crossroads to become more than he dreamed of in life."
Going in with no rank, he quickly got promoted at the end of basic to private. A few months after arriving at his first duty station, he got promoted again. But he really started on the fast track when he earned the Expert
Field Medical Badge as a private first class. Promoted within a few years to specialist, sergeant and staff sergeant, he pinned on sergeant first class at the age of 26.
"He's a leader," said Robertson. "Jason sets his goals high and knows how to follow the smaller goals to reach his potential."
Now the proud father of a 4-year-old little girl named Kaityln, Alexander plans to relax for a while and focus on his family. But he still has Army goals. Whether a future sergeant major of the Army or command sergeant major, "I just feel like I was born to be a Soldier – I just feel like I fit in the Army.
"My goal is really never-ending," said Alexander. "The day I don't have the goal of helping Soldiers out is the day I'd get out, because there'd be no point in staying in."