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UI senior to become Marine officer upon graduation

BY ALEKSANDRA VUJICIC | SEPTEMBER 02, 2014 5:00 AM

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Jessi Wieck begins her day at 5 a.m. Her iHome, set to volume 20, is the only thing loud enough to wake her up.

Just a few months ago, Wieck was accustomed to jolting from her bunk as a drill instructor unlocking the doors to her squad bay, flipped the light switch, and yelled, “LIGHTS, LIGHTS, LIGHTS.”

She had 20 seconds to put on her blouse and boots.

Today, as she looks in her closet, it’s quite obvious how much her life has changed in the past 10 months. One side paints the picture of a typical college student and the other is lined with combat boots.

Wieck came to the University of Iowa with a narrow focus on working toward optometry school.

Now, as a UI senior, she is a member of the U.S. Marines. 

Wieck said her decision to enlist felt like jumping off a cliff.

“I just kind of went with my gut and my gut was telling me ‘Go. Just go and do it,’ ” she said.

She arrived at boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina, in October 2013.

The next 13 weeks of her life tested her both mentally and physically, ultimately leading up to the moment Wieck received her Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, the official emblem of the U.S. Marine Corps.

“It is the best feeling in the world,” Wieck said. “If you’re not crying, there’s something wrong with you, because we’re all bawling.”

Wieck then trained as a supply marine in Military Occupational School, where she earned the title of honor graduate. She received a meritorious promotion to her current rank as lance corporal before all of her peers.

She had planned on coming home and slowly transitioning back to student life until her plans, yet again, took a sharp turn.

“I was getting ready to start school again, enjoy my summer, and then I get a call, and they’re like, ‘Has anyone ever talked to you about being an officer?’  Wieck said.

She kept in contact with Capt. Ross Matheny, a selection officer for the state of Iowa.

“She is high caliber in all the areas we look for,” Matheny said. “She’s got a lot of enthusiasm, she’s physically fit, she’s a quick thinker.”

Wieck also sat down with Maj. Michael Stansberry, the recruiting stations commanding officer in Des Moines, to talk about going beyond just being enlisted.

“Looking at the way the military is adapting, and they’re talking about pushing women into combat roles, I just saw Lance Cpl. Wieck as somebody who would be able to keep up with the guys or even surpass most of them,” Stansberry said.

Getting into Officer Candidate School was a competitive process, but Wieck applied as a nonrecommended selection.

Before she could catch her breath from boot camp, she was on her way to 10 more weeks of training.

“I don’t know if there’s ever been another Marine in history who ever went to boot camp and OCS training in the same year, Stansberry said.

Wieck said the training was “physically a million times harder than boot camp,” as exampled by her platoon starting out with roughly 46 women and ending up with 23.

But Matheny said Wieck stuck out.

“She had the highest leadership average of the candidates who were there from the Midwest, from our district,” Matheny said.

Once she graduates, Wieck will be commissioned as a second lieutenant. Wieck said she will be in charge of people who have been in the Marines decades longer than she has.

“If you think they work for you, then you’re already a bad leader,” she said. “You work for them because you need to help them accomplish what they need to get done because they’re bending over backwards for you.”


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