POOLER, Ga. --
POOLER, Ga.--A U.S. Marine walks down the hallway of Bluffton High School, not as the school recruiter, but as an alumnus of class of 2021. Pfc. Alan Heyward, a native of Bluffton, South Carolina, has returned home to share his experience and knowledge about Marine Corps opportunities with friends and family while on Command Recruiting Program (CDR).
“I have always wanted to join the military for quite a while, and I thought the Marines would be my best option,” Heyward said. “The uniform really caught my eye at first; it drew me towards [the Marine Corps], and then I found out more that I wanted to be a part of, especially [their] discipline and how proud they are.”
Even as a junior at Bluffton High School, Heyward was eager and determined to become a Marine. He first met his recruiter, Staff Sgt. Diego E. Fernandez, while the Marines had a table setup at his high school. During the summer of 2020, Heyward was finally able to sit down and talk with his recruiter at Recruiting Sub Station Savannah, and soon after, Heyward enlisted into the Marine Corps. Heyward prepared himself for his first challenge as a Marine poolee, building himself physically, mentally and emotionally fit during his time in the Delayed Entry Program.
Fernandez described Heyward as being physically fit and having clear aspirations in life. Heyward displayed his drive and passion for becoming a Marine during pool functions, weekly physical training and his initial strength test. On August 30th, 2021, Heyward left for Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island to begin his training.
“Boot camp was mentally challenging, but a good learning experience to build leadership skills,” said Heyward. “When you look back at everything you went through you kind off just laugh at everything that went on. An overall good experience for sure.”
Three months of character break down and later, build up, Heyward walked with his head held high after earning the title of U.S. Marine, graduating from Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, on November 24th, 2021. These Marines were granted 10 days of boot leave after it had been halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Heyward returned home and enjoyed his leave by spending time with his family and close friends over Thanksgiving and holiday festivities. He also paid his old instructors and teachers a visit at his alma mater with a new sense of purpose and pride. The Marine Corps helped him build self-confidence, as well as make improvements in other areas of his life.
After his 10 day boot leave ended, Heyward was temporarily assigned to RSS Savannah as part of CDR. Marines can apply to a specific program depending on their status: after boot camp graduation; prior to reporting to the School of Infantry; during annual leave or in liberty status; among other programs requested through their chain of command. Once approved, the Marines are allowed to return to their hometowns to work alongside recruiters in the local area and also spend time with family and loved ones. Heyward visited high schools and displayed his transformation from a civilian to a Marine.
“He needed to break out of his shell, but the Marine Corps helped him with that,” Fernandez said. “He started meeting new people; he felt a lot more comfortable around the other poolees, and he started developing friendships. In the end, he became a Marine.”
Depending on the referrals Heyward provides to RSS Savannah, he could be eligible for meritorious promotion to Lance Corporal. Heyward completes his CDR assignment on January 3rd, 2022, when he is slated to attend Marine Corps SOI-East and continue onto his military occupational specialty as a Security Force Guard.