By Andrew Herbert
I used to look for what I called “the America in all of us” with my Marines. It was the type of conversation I would seek in a foxhole in the middle of a starry desert night on a training exercise in Twenty-Nine Palms, California, or during an extended chat with a young Marine while standing duty at the barracks. I was always seeking to hear others’ stories, hoping to identify the answer to the question, “So, why did you join the Marine Corps?”. I was looking for what it was about their American experience that was worth serving for them. Answers varied, but the conversation was always a deep explanation of their reasoning. When I think about my journey to the Marine Corps and how I got to Stern, it all starts there, with why I joined in the first place.
I tell people that by the time I was ten years old, I had a strong inclination that I would seek service. I used to come home from school every day and watch the History Channel, which at the time was still showing historical documentaries. I was amazed watching incredible feats of human will, determination, and selfless sacrifice undertaken by brave Americans in footage of WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, which seemed to make up the bulk of the content I consumed. What could compel a person to sacrifice themselves for their nation? The search for that answer provided the final bit of kindling to what would become the fire ignited by a beautiful September morning in 2001, when the world changed forever.
I grew up in a small New Jersey town along the Jersey Shore. The drive from my childhood home to Stern would take about an hour and fifteen minutes, but it’s actually about 45 miles as the crow flies. I was only ten, but I remember a lot about September 11th. How could you forget? The world changed forever in an instant, and I remember how the country united and the pain on the faces of my loved ones, mourning for those they had lost. I decided soon after that I was going to join the service because of the feeling that unity gave me and to do my part in preventing that pain again.
I set myself on a path towards becoming an officer, because I knew when I first saw the famous photo of Lieutenant Boldomero Lopez scaling the walls during the Battle of Inchon on September 15, 1950 that I wanted to lead Marines. I joined the Marine Corps because their brand stood out to me. Marines have done a great job telling our story over the course of our lifetime (this November 10th is the 246 Birthday of our beloved Corps and no, fellow MVC members, the Marines will not stop celebrating). I was drawn by their feats in battle, their professional appearance, and the family-like way in which Marines treat one another in and out of uniform, forever.
The process brought me to Penn State University on a Marine Corps ROTC scholarship, and in May 2013 I took my oath and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. I spent eight years on active duty as an Artillery officer, and I was fortunate to be exposed to incredible people and a variety of experiences along the way.
My first four years in the operating forces were spent leading teams of various sizes from eight to 150 Marines, solving different problem sets through various training exercises across the world with our High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS for short. The highlight of that time was my deployment to Okinawa, Japan as our unit’s external representative to our Japanese and South Korean allies, where I had a chance to work across cultural boundaries, briefing and selling US and allied leaders on how we could integrate my unit’s unique long-distance precision rocket capabilities into the region. I had so much fun that I decided to stay in for another tour of duty.
I spent my final four years in the Marine Corps at our national recruiting headquarters just outside of Washington, DC. I was the Aide-de-Camp to Major General Paul Kennedy, which exposed me to the world of executive leadership, before doing the bulk of my work in our marketing section working independently as our National Partnerships Officer. In this role, I focused our partnerships on bringing Marine Corps career opportunities to diverse and underserved communities nationwide. I then spent my final year as the command’s Legislative Affairs Liaison, answering congressional inquiries and preparing testimony for senior Marines to brief to Congress. I moved six times over the course of those years if you include the seven-month deployment to Okinawa, Japan. I had a chance to train, mentor, and lead the finest young men and women this country has to offer and learn from some of the most intelligent, bravest and hard-working people I have ever met. I was lucky because it was my dream come true. However, when my father passed away in 2017, I knew that, at the end of my current commitment, it was time to be close to family again.
Knowing the Marine Corps could not provide me that flexibility, I felt it was time to move on and figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. That introspective journey brought me to Stern. As I reflect on why I chose Stern over other business schools, the obvious reason is its proximity to my family, but I do not think it would be MECE (MCA Shoutout) if I did not include another factor that weighed in.
When I was deciding between business schools and what I had hoped to find in my future career, I found that I was looking for the characteristics that I thought would be closest to those I loved about the Marine Corps. Things like problem solving, working in a mission-oriented team environment and where everybody treats everyone like family. I found these things through my application journey with Stern. Whether I spoke with a Sternie who had been out of school for several years or current students, I found myself finding that “EQ + IQ” was not just a tagline for Stern because everyone here embodies it. As I reflect on my service on my first Veteran’s Day out of uniform, I am thankful to have started a new chapter along my journey amongst great people who share a desire to lead the future of our world and I look forward to taking those steps with all of you, veterans and non-veterans alike.