UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls
While many 13-year-olds were dreaming of fast cars and video games, Alex Huttner was dreaming of becoming a soldier. “I wanted to find my purpose through sacrifice,” he said.
He went to his local Marine Corps recruitment center in 2010 to enlist but was met outside the building by members of the U.S. Army who told him that Marines would be gone for three weeks. Huttner made a decision to switch gears and enlist in the Army.
Huttner underwent basic training at Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga., and was deployed on his first tour of duty to Afghanistan in November 2012. While in Afghanistan, he gathered intelligence and provided assessments for the 101st Airborne Division.
“I arrived in Afghanistan with no expectations,” Huttner said. “There was no running water or electricity. There was one paved road because the United States paved it. It really put everything into perspective. Basically real darkness.”
As part of his intelligence gathering, he cultivated relationships with the local village’s children. These children wore the same clothing for years, but were very energetic despite their difficult circumstances. When Huttner would ask the children what they wanted to be when they grew up, they would often answer "a farmer, like my father."
Soon after Huttner returned from his first tour, the United States began implementing a program to educate and support teachers in Afghan villages. The results of this program were evident when Huttner returned for his second and final tour of duty in November 2014.
When he began to interact during his second tour with the local children asking what they wanted to be when they grew up, he was surprised. Due to the increased exposure to education, through U.S. initiatives, the children now had dreams of becoming lawyers, doctors and engineers. During this time, the first Afghan university was also established in Kabul.
When Huttner returned home following his second deployment, he began pursuing a degree in business management at UW-River Falls.
Huttner had one piece of advice for anyone looking to join the Armed Forces. “Forget everything you think you know. Humble yourself and discover your actual physical and mental limits,” he said.
To view more UW-River Falls veterans, visit https://medium.com/@uwriverfalls/uwrfthanksourvets-d8315bd0ff3. Thank you to all who have served.