News: College student changes life, becomes Marine anti-tank missileman
Story by Cpl. Joseph Scanlan
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – A large number of young adults in the United States pursue college directly after graduating high school. While many students continue to pursue a degree, some decide to do something completely different.
Corporal Jonathan Hollis attended college immediately after high school, but after a few short years of enduring the monotonous routine, he was fed up and sought an adventure. Now an anti-tank missileman with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Hollis is more than 6,500 miles away from home while serving his country in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Hollis and his eight siblings were raised in an Irish-Catholic family in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was home-schooled until he was a teenager and then attended Caledonia High School.
“Because I was home-schooled, it was pretty strict at home, so when I got to public school I never missed a homework assignment,” Hollis said.
His superb grades ultimately earned him an engineering scholarship and he went on to pursue an education at Grand Rapids Community College. He continued to earn good grades with his unwavering work ethic and made the Dean’s list during his first year, but he wasn’t content.
“I hated college,” Hollis said. “I didn’t like sitting in a room for hours upon hours every day just repeating the same schedule. I would show up in the morning, do my classes and leave at night while having a job on the side. It was just the same thing every day and I was sick of it.”
While Hollis was a student, two of his brothers who were infantrymen in the Marine Corps told him about their experiences, and that’s when he decided to become a Marine himself. Like his two brothers, he enlisted as an infantryman and departed for recruit training Dec. 10, 2012.
Three grueling months later he underwent training at the School of Infantry, where he would become an infantryman. Hollis earned a significant position of leadership shortly into the training cycle. Midway into the training evolution he was given the opportunity to choose which kind of infantryman he wanted to become.
“One of the things I liked to do while growing up was to build rockets,” Hollis said. “So I was one of the few that really wanted to become an 0352 (anti-tank missileman).”
Hollis continued to lead Marines during the course through various events and ultimately earned a meritorious promotion to lance corporal upon graduating from SOI. He then reported to 1st Bn., 7th Marines, at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California.
He began predeployment training immediately upon arrival with the battalion. His training included aiding the 30-day Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, a 10-day Mission Rehearsal Exercise and a 30-day Integrated Training Exercise aboard the Combat Center. The countless hours spent training prepared him for his deployment to Helmand province, Afghanistan, March 2. His hard work did not go unnoticed.
“Hollis has exemplified what we like to see as a leader,” said Gunnery Sgt. Gerald Furnari, a platoon sergeant with Weapons Co., and a native of Franklin Square, New York. “He has separated himself from his peers since his arrival in the company. He did an outstanding job all throughout the workup. We sometimes put him in positions that he normally wouldn’t have occupied as somebody with his experience and time in service, but he showed us a lot of versatility and he showed us through his good work ethic that he is somebody we can count on.”
Hollis has operated with Weapons Co. during several missions since their arrival in country. He has participated in numerous patrols in Taliban-occupied areas and has received enemy fire on multiple occasions.
Due to his work ethic, intelligence, initiative and leadership ability, Hollis earned a meritorious promotion to corporal, June 2. Weapons Co. is slated to continue a high operational tempo throughout the summer in Helmand province before they return to the United States.
“Hollis is one of the best assets we have in our platoon, if not the company,” Furnari said. “When we return from this deployment, he is going to be one of the noncommissioned officers we lean on because of his prior work experience and his performance. He’s going to be one of the individuals that we’re going to look at to lead the company during our next predeployment workup and into the next deployment.”