AL ASAD, Iraq -- The current operational tempo of the Global War on Terrorism means many Marines are deploying to combat zones on a yearly basis. Back-to-back combat tours can cause headaches for Marines and heartaches for their families, but for Sgt. C. Alexander Wolf, it’s just another day at the office.
Wolf, the signals intelligence chief for 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), is on his fourth deployment to the Middle East, dating back to 2003.
The Kokomo, Ind., native, works for the Wing’s intelligence division, whose duties range from intercepting and analyzing electronic communications signals to production and dissemination of collected data. The 27-year-old Marine has spent the better part of six of his nine years in the Corps overseas, serving three yearlong tours in Japan before becoming a regular starter in the Middle East lineup.
“In my line of work, every deployment is different,” Wolf said. “I was probably kind of bitter about not deploying when I was in Japan, so now that I have the chance, I’m going to take it. What I love about deploying is the realization that what I do is directly affecting the war effort.”
Wolf joined the Marine Corps shortly after graduating high school in 1996, searching for a new way to challenge himself.
“I basically eased my way through high school,” Wolf said. “The way I see it, most schools are geared toward the lowest common denominator. For me, that meant it was pretty easy to breeze through. When I graduated, I knew I wanted to do something with my life.”
While some Marines may choose to steer their careers toward staying stateside, Wolf prefers the deployed life.
“I know I could’ve joined the Corps and spent three years on a base, taken college classes and done lots of different things,” Wolf said. “But out here, I get the piece of mind that I’m playing a part in what’s going on right now.”
Wolf’s experience is a great contribution to his superiors and the section as a whole, said 1st Lt. Adam G. Thomas, 2nd MAW’s signals intelligence officer.
“He has a complete understanding of the mission at hand and the processes to go about that mission,” Thomas said. “As any good noncommissioned officer, he operates almost completely autonomously, allowing me to continually be focused forward. It’s like holding the leash to a well-trained, 200-pound rottweiler. The only thing I have to do is point and hold on, he’ll take care of the rest. Needless to say, he makes my part of the job enjoyable.”
For Wolf, each deployment is an opportunity to increase his experience and add on to his base of knowledge, he said.
“I really enjoy doing as much as I can, working in the states or abroad,” Wolf said. “I want to keep building my knowledge base no matter what. In this field, knowledge is power.”
Constantly deploying usually means missed holidays and other celebrations, but it can also create a better appreciation for time with loved ones, Wolf said.
“You lose the flavor of holidays after a while,” Wolf said. “But, on the other hand, it means so much more when you are home. It’s like your sense of appreciation for what used to be normal occasions is enhanced.”
Wolf’s father is not always happy about his son’s deployment choices, but he is supportive, Wolf said.
“I don’t think any parent wants to see their child in harm’s way, but he understands this is what I do,” Wolf said. “My mother passed away, so the way I see it, she’s looking down on me, seeing what I do and knows I’m happy.”
The sacrifices Wolf has made throughout the years have allowed him to build a resume of experience and core of information that is unmatched, Thomas said.
“It’s funny, he’s been here so long that he will just recognize names that reemerge or show up in new areas, he remembers them all,” Thomas said. “I think he knows every bad guy in the whole country. I think one of the most difficult concepts for a new intelligence analyst to understand when they show up in country is the mindset of our current enemy.
“You can’t just think like a normal American would think,” Thomas said. “You have to completely set aside your biases for race, religion and creed and put yourself completely in the shoes of the enemy. You have to understand the language, the religion, the culture, the tribal relationships and the history, which Sgt. Wolf does very well. There’s no way to replace the knowledge gained (from having) boots on the deck.”
Wolf said he is not yet ready to settle back into a domestic routine and plans to deploy to Afghanistan within a year.
“When I’m deployed, I look forward to going home. But when I’m home, I can’t wait until I can deploy again,” Wolf said. “I’m usually scoping out my next deployment ahead of time. I’ll probably go until I’m burnt out or they won’t let me go again, I really don’t know.”
Wolf’s attitude and motivation have been the mostly likely keys to his success, Thomas said.
“One of my favorite sayings is ‘winners want the ball,’” Thomas said. “Sgt. Wolf just wants to be in the fight. He continually has a positive, can-do attitude and doesn’t let the little things get to him. I think that, more so than anything else, is the reason why he’s been so successful out here. I’m lucky to have him.”
Deploying seven months a year for three straight years may be too heavy a burden for some, but for Wolf it is an opportunity to learn, grow and take part in an important mission.
“I’m single and have my whole life ahead of me,” Wolf said. “If me coming out here means someone in a different situation doesn’t have to, then so be it. I enjoy it, so why not. I love the Marine Corps. I think that’s something that grows within us all. This is my way of giving back.”