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B'ville greetings from Baghdad

Sargent Jon Alvarez shipped out for Iraq Oct. 6.

Since then, the Baldwinsville resident has flown on an Air Force jet, experienced the desert of Kuwait and has been working with Iraqi citizens in Baghdad. The Baldwinsville Messenger recently caught up with Alvarez to learn more about his (and other soldiers') experience overseas.

Why did you join the military?

I joined the military in 2005 when they raised the age limit to 40 for those with no prior service. I chose to join the US Army Reserve as that was the only branch that actually raised its age limit. Being a strong supporter of our country's efforts to defang and then remove Saddam Hussein, I had actually tried to enlist the year prior. However, I was denied because of the age restriction. So, when it was announced that they needed recruits and raised the age limit, I enlisted.

Raising the age limit must have proven successful for the Army because they have since raised it to 42. I've met several other "old" soldiers whose stories were similar to mine and who also did very well representing our age bracket at Basic Training and AIT (Advanced Individual Training). I also happened to earn the Iron Soldier Award as the top all-around soldier in my graduating AIT class at Fort Bragg.

How would you describe boot camp?

Boot camp or Basic Training was at Fort Jackson, SC and AIT was at Fort Bragg, lasting a combined six months.

I had a great experience. Being the oldest, I was assigned leadership roles and, along with some of the older recruits, was of some assistance to the drill sergeants in reigning in some of the younger, more immature recruits.

I was very encouraged to meet so many fine young men and women who chose to serve their country, voluntarily, during a time of war. The deprivations of the training environment certainly made me appreciate the creature comforts of home much more. I think everyone should experience it. I also lost 50 pounds throughout the entire process. I think six months with no coffee was the toughest part. I joined my reserve unit in Mattydale upon graduation from AIT in January 2006.

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