Hernandez ‘16 continues family military tradition

Julia Robbins, Staff Writer

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Christian Hernandez ’16 comes from a family of veterans, which served as part of his inspiration to join the armed forces: his great grandfather served in the Korean War and his grandfather served for 20 years as a combat engineer in the Army.

“I had the military heritage, and that motivated me to do better than my grandfather did, because he ranked pretty high, and that’s what I want to achieve, but greater,” Hernandez said. Hernandez’s grandfather, Miguel Guzman, was a First Sergeant in the army, the second highest enlisted rank, and assisted in overseeing 120 soldiers for his company element, Hernandez said.

In addition to the inspiration from his family’s military heritage, Hernandez also wanted a chance to give back to his country.

His ability to attend Horace Mann and then college came from the sacrifices his family made and from opportunities America gave him, he said. “I wanted to pay my dues back and do my service,” Hernandez said.

However, Hernandez had to wait until his 18th birthday to enlist because his mother wouldn’t let him while he was under her legal control, he said. Having grown up with a father in the military, Hernandez’s mother believed her son wouldn’t like life in the military, he said.

But when Hernandez eventually did enlist, it was the greatest decision of his life, he said. Hernandez is currently an enlisted soldier in the reserves on his way to becoming an officer in the Army.

Hernandez attends Iona College and is participating in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at Fordham University in New York. People in ROTC undergo the physical training of students at military academies while receiving a civilian education.

Before he started college, Hernandez had to first undergo military training at different army instillations across the country. Right after turning 18, Hernandez completed his 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training (BCT) at Fort Jackson in South Carolina.

BCT includes rifle training, physical training, and combat zone survival instruction.

“The hardest part was definitely learning how to cope with the lack of sleep,” Hernandez said. “You’ll go out in the field for days and nights at a time without sleeping at all, and you have to carry all this equipment and ammo and heavy weapons.”

Like the rest of the military, BCT had a very hierarchical nature. Recruits could only talk when spoken to first by sergeants, and higher-ranking officials would “come onto you screaming and cursing,” Hernandez said.

After his time in Fort Jackson, Hernandez went on to Advanced Individual Training (AIT). Every recruit has to complete AIT in the specific field they will enter in the army, whether that be Aviation Logistics or the Military Police.

Hernandez chose the Signal Corps School at Fort Gordon for his Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). In the army, he will be a Signal Support Specialist (SSS), commonly known as 25U, in charge of his army unit’s information technology such as radio transmitters, antennas, and routers.

“We couldn’t be in civilian uniforms; we had to be in uniform at all time,” Hernandez said about his time at Fort Gordon. “So when I came back, and I wore sneakers for the first time, it was the greatest feeling in the world.”

The atmosphere at BCT and AIT was both competitive and encouraging, Hernandez said.

“At the end of the day, if you need help, I’m gonna help you,” Hernandez said. “If I got a higher PT (Physical Training) score, I’m gonna get you a higher PT score too; If I shoot better, I’m going to show you how to shoot better.”

“You learn respect very easily,” Hernandez said about his time throughout military training. He added that he has learned to complete tasks immediately, pay more attention to detail, and focus on the task at hand.

“It’s made me a harder worker; it’s also made me a more complete worker,” he said.

Hernandez also became close to many of his fellow recruits in BCT and at Fort Gordon. “A lot of them wanted to escape from the life that they had before,” Hernandez said. “That motivated me to keep pushing further because I already knew that when I’d come back home, I would already have more than they had ever had.”

“Their outlook in life and their positivity made me a better person,” he said. Hernandez believes every student should “at least look into the military.”

“The stigma is that they trap you, and the people that you’re with are nobody’s, but that’s not true at all,” Hernandez said.  “The people I’m with are some of the best people I’ve ever been with in my life and the experiences that I’ve had I wouldn’t trade for the world,” Hernandez said.