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26th Marine Expeditionary Unit

A Certain Force in an Uncertain World

Camp Lejeune, North Carolina
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Greater than sum of its parts: first-generation American contributes to strength of Marine Corps

By Cpl. Michael S. Lockett | August 20, 2013

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U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Alvara Morales, is an amphibious assault vehicle crewman from Miami, assigned to Company K, Battalion Landing Team 3/2, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), aboard the USS Carter Hall (LSD 50), at sea, Aug. 13, 2013. The 26th MEU is a Marine Air-Ground Task Force forward-deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility aboard the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group serving as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious operations across the full range of military operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Michael S. Lockett/Released)

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Alvara Morales, is an amphibious assault vehicle crewman from Miami, assigned to Company K, Battalion Landing Team 3/2, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), aboard the USS Carter Hall (LSD 50), at sea, Aug. 13, 2013. The 26th MEU is a Marine Air-Ground Task Force forward-deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility aboard the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group serving as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious operations across the full range of military operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Michael S. Lockett/Released) (Photo by Cpl. Michael S. Lockett)


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USS CARTER HALL, At sea -- An alloy is a blending of two or more types of metal to create a new blend, usually stronger, more flexible, lighter, or simply better than the original metals. That is America’s strength, and the Marine Corps’ in particular. The wealth of backgrounds that Marines come from combine to form a well-tempered whole, a flexible implement with a variety of background skills and talents that will never show on any individual’s training record. 

Marines come from all over. In Company K, Battalion Landing Team 3/2, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, there are Marines from more than half a dozen countries, from one side of the world to another. These Marines, in their way, represent one of the best things about America – taking immigrants from all over and utilizing their talents and skills to make the country a stronger place. 

Lance Cpl. Alvaro Morales is one of those Marines. Born in Nicaragua, he immigrated to the United States in 1998 from Chinadega, where he lived, to Miami, with his father, hoping to find a better life to lead. “Back where I lived, there were barely any jobs – things were just bad,” said Morales. “Things were not good over there.”

He arrived in Miami in 1998, spending the next several years skipping around the area. “I literally went to six elementary schools and five middle schools. I got to stay in one high school for four years. That was pretty exciting,” said Morales. “It’s pretty difficult, moving around and meeting new people all the time. We just kept moving from better to better.” After high school, he attended Miami-Dade College for a semester, studying criminal justice with the intention of joining the police in the area. Life, however, had different plans, and financial troubles forced him to withdraw.

He joined the Marine Corps shortly afterward. “I needed a way to go to college,” said Morales. “From what I heard from friends that had already joined, it was a challenge. It was going to be tough. But I thought it would build strong character.” Joining on a combat support contract, he was sent to school as an amphibious assault vehicle crewman. 

“Everything we do training-wise, learning my own MOS (military occupational specialty), has been a challenge,” said Morales. “You have to know how to drive – how to fix anything in the AAV in case something breaks.” Morales is currently deployed with the AAV Platoon for the 26th MEU.

Still intending to become a police officer in Miami after his conclusion of service, Morales cites it simply as being an honorable profession to go into. “I just thought it was a great job for the future. I never had any intention of doing something else.” Miami, even overseas, is never far from his mind.

“I love it. It’s a paradise to me. You have clubs – the nightlife, the parties, the environment, the people are friendly,” said Morales. “There’s a lot of things to do there, and the food is amazing. You have a lot of different Latin food.”

Food is culturally important in many South and Central American cultures, who comprise the bulk of immigration into areas like Miami. “To us Hispanics, yes, food is very important. Trying new types of food is amazing,” said Morales. 

It’s one of the things having people from a variety of cultural backgrounds contributes to the being of the larger whole. Morales’ – and others – knowledge helps enhance the knowledge of the group as a whole, by bringing Marines from all across the country into contact with cultures from all over the world in an environment where they can gradually assimilate the knowledge offered to them. “I mean, I don’t think it’s important, but guys I’ve met here are always asking questions, like how different are Spanish countries,” said Morales. He is always ready to answer their questions and teach them about his culture.