Wisconsin Veterans Museum

Oral History Interview with Alexis Tonia Tovar

Wisconsin Veterans Museum

 

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00:00:00

[Interview Begins]

SPRAGUE: Today is September 21st, 2022. This is an interview with Alexis Tonia Tovar, who served in the United States Marine Corps from October 10th, 2017 to February 15th, 2021.

TOVAR: Yes, sir.

SPRAGUE: This interview is being conducted by Luke Sprague at the Villard Square branch of the Milwaukee Public Library. For the "I Am Not Invisible" project for the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, no one else is present in the room. Okay, Alexis, where did you grow up?

TOVAR: I grew up in Chicago, Illinois, on the south side.

SPRAGUE: And what did your family do there?

TOVAR: Um, well, I lived with my mom. She was a single mother. She is a police officer. She's actually retiring next year in January. She served about thirty years in the Chicago Police Department. Um, she also has a bachelor's, two 00:01:00masters and a doctor's degree. So, that's kind of the inspiration that I had, you know, growing up. And I have four siblings as well and they're younger siblings. So I grew up with my mom and my siblings.

SPRAGUE: Did you see any connection between your mom's service in the police force and you joining the military?

TOVAR: Um, connection? I wouldn't say connection, but I feel like I was held to a certain standard on what she wanted for my life and what I needed for my life. I also did have relatives that served in the Marine Corps. And my uncle and my aunt. My uncle, he retired as a sergeant major and my aunt, she retired as a master gunnery sergeant. So they held a standard and it's just like, "Hey, you got to figure it out." Mom wanted me to be a police officer and they wanted me to be in the Marine Corps. And honestly, I chose the most challenging one.

00:02:00

SPRAGUE: Would you be okay, maybe with sharing their names so you could tie in with them historically?

TOVAR: Yes. So, my aunt's name is Ximena Thomas. And my uncle's name is Alee Banks. Or Aaron Banks, sorry we call him Alee.

SPRAGUE: So with, with that context of your mother in her service, in the police force, your and your uncle, what did they think about you joining the military?

TOVAR: Oh, they were very proud. Um, and despite not choosing the police officer route, um, my mom, she just was happy that I chose something that was challenging and that I was able to serve my country, um, as well. They were the ones sending me the letters in boot camp on a regular basis, while in school house and in the fleet, sending care packages, checking on me and just keeping 00:03:00me motivated throughout the process. So, I think they were definitely very proud and we went to the graduation as well.

SPRAGUE: So would you say your family has a family, a tradition of service or military service?

TOVAR: Well, it only goes as far as my aunt and, you know, uncle and my mom. But so far, I guess I carry out that tradition, that's for certain, for sure. My mom, she also does foster care. And I know one of my foster brothers, he went to the Marine Corps as well. So, I went in and she held him to a standard as well. So, um, definitely an influence on multiple different people, outside of me.

SPRAGUE: So in your record, I see you first of all, let's back up a little bit. What schools did you go to?

TOVAR: Actually graduated here in Milwaukee. Oh, at Harold S. Vincent High School. Um, before that, I did go to school in Chicago, and I did about a year 00:04:00at Governors State University before I joined the Marine Corps.

SPRAGUE: Right. So I think somewhere there was mention of maybe delayed entry. Were you involved in that at all? Delayed entry program.

TOVAR: Delayed entry?

SPRAGUE: Maybe not.

TOVAR: I don't believe so.

SPRAGUE: So then what was your transition then from would it have been high school or did you?

TOVAR: Actually work in between that time? So I went to school. It really wasn't for me at that time. And then I decided just to work. And I, actually my uncle, he came in from California and he had a talk with me and he pretty much influenced me to take a bigger step and challenge myself in life. And after having that discussion with him, I made that decision to join the military. I wasn't sure which branch I wanted to go to at that time, but doing a little bit of research, I said, "Hey, um, I'm going to take that challenge and try the 00:05:00Marine Corps." And, um, I wasn't sure if I would make it, but I took that chance.

SPRAGUE: What? And that was that. That same uncle.

TOVAR: Oh, yes.

SPRAGUE: So what made you choose the Marine Corps?

TOVAR: Oh, honestly, it just, one thing was the uniforms. We have the best uniforms, I'm gonna forever believe that. Um, outside of that, I knew it was, you know, a longer boot camp. You know, when you come in, you don't know the specifics, but what you see, like online and what you hear on YouTube and I watched a lot of YouTube videos. I've seen the boot camp and I'm just like, man, it looks, it looks crazy, you know? And I needed a little excitement in my life at that point in time. You know, I just worked regular jobs and I was supporting myself single, no kids. And, um, seeing some of the videos just motivated me in general. And I spoke to the recruiter and you know, they gave their spiel. So I was just like, "Let's do it." So when I seen swimming pool and I seen people 00:06:00jumping off of like the repel towers, it just seemed super exciting to me. And, um, I wanted to partake in it.

SPRAGUE: Did you? Did you ever think of the potential downsides or risks involved?

TOVAR: Oh, yes. That's for sure. But being a Chicagoan, you know, it's a risk there in general. I didn't have a huge fear, and my throught process coming in was just like, "Hey, you know, I can be a statistic in Chicago or I can actually, you know, give my life to the service. And if that's how I go, I'm okay with it because it's for the better, you know, for other individuals and for our country."

SPRAGUE: Tell me about boot.

TOVAR: Boot Camp. [Sighs] Oh, man. Was that a challenge? Um, I didn't believe 00:07:00that, my recruiter gave me all the details of boot camp, like and as you, you know, hit the fleet and you meet other military personnel, they're going to tell you like, yeah, they didn't give us all the information that you would think. I didn't know about the tests in boot camp. I knew about some [inaudible]. I knew about, like some of the obstacles. I didn't know anything about drill. I seen videos of people doing drill, and I was like, "Oh, that looks cool." But I didn't know how much time and effort and how we're out there for hours in the hot sun doing that. I didn't know about the MCMAP, which I spoke about last time, which is the Marine combat, the Marine martial arts. So there was a lot of information I didn't know about. It definitely was a challenge. I thought I was pretty fit coming in. And once you get to boot camp, you are hit with the hard truth that you are not as athletic as you think. Um, and I think that was one of 00:08:00the biggest challenges was the fitness portion of it and drill, because I didn't have as much rhythm as I thought I did. Uh, as far as that goes, the knowledge having to remember, you know, all the history, the things I saw, it was not as bad, but I wasn't aware of all of the history and um, behind the Marine Corps and that I wasn't aware of the leadership traits and, you know, honor, courage, commitment. You hear it on TV all the time. But until you like, you know, put in the effort to understand what it really means in earning your EGA and, you know, going through the crucible and taking that hike at the end and actually earning it, you understand, you know, the concepts and what the Marine Corps is really built on, you know, after that experience.

SPRAGUE: So tell the listeners a little bit about The Crucible.

TOVAR: Oh, man, The Crucible! Well, first of all, our Crucible it rained. It was very cold. That was in late December timeframe and Parris Island. It's a, it's 00:09:00just a journey. You go through multiple, different obstacles. You have a super long, you hike the whole entire time with rucksacks. You barely get any sleep. You get a certain amount of MREs. So I'm not saying you're starving out there, but you're not eating a lot. It's it's a real challenge in general, your mental, your physical, but you push through because you want to earn that title. You're not just given the title of Marine. You have to, you know, go through those steps physically demanding. And also you build camaraderie. You build a sisterhood with the other female Marines that partake. And I think that was one of the best things that I got out of the process, because today I still talk to a lot of my Marine Corps sisters and we look at each other as sisters and we, you know, meet up. And actually, I just took a trip to New Mexico with some of 00:10:00my sisters as well. And this is four years later. So you create this bond of individuals because you want to serve your country and then you go through, you know, these challenging steps together. And the bond is kind of indescribable realistically. So, yeah, the crucible, or our feet, I know this is all random, but our feet was at the end of the last, you know, hike. We had to head to bus in people to, um, take us back to our squad base because our feet were, you know, pretty much ripped apart. So, body was hurting, and, um, but it was, it was worth it. And then honestly, truly, if I were to have to do it again, I would do it again. Even though it was a challenge, I would definitely do it again.

SPRAGUE: So for a minute, let's explore your sisters. Tell me about your Marine Corps sisters.

TOVAR: Marine Corps sister, I have multiple different ones. I have some from 00:11:00boot camp, I have some from MCT, I have some from schoolhouse, also have some from the fleet. So it depends on where you meet them. And each individual, you know, you go through different things with, boot camp I went through the process of becoming a Marine, so that's how I, you know, formed a bond with them. MCT is a whole different challenge. You're in combat training. It's a lot of hiking there. You go through, you know, you learn how to shoot in the dark. They drop you in the forest. You have to learn land navigation. So you get that process the them. You share that bond. School house is more intellectual. You have to learn your MOS as far as that goes. So I have one friend, my college, she's a sergeant. I met her in the fleet. Honestly, we didn't, we weren't in the same unit, but we ran into, I forgot how we ran into each other. I don't know if it was through martial arts or mutual friends, but I know that we did take some 00:12:00courses together and um, she's also an individual. She's been on multiple different MEUs and deployments. She, I think, pursued being a drill instructor. I have a lot of other friends, transitioned out around the same, you know, same time that I did. And I have one person that stayed in and I think she's doing a MSG duty as well. So I have a lot of different friends from different portions of my service and I created a bond, honestly, through hard times, I think. So, being able to trust them and being able to confide in them.

SPRAGUE: What were some of the hard times that you faced?

TOVAR: Wow, hard times. I definitely would say like field operations. And my last one, you know, you're working those long shifts and you're sleeping in tents and you're not showering and, um, you just have to, like, push through and having an individual in there that you can let them know, like how your mental 00:13:00health is doing and, you know, be there to watch for you and make sure you're doing what you're supposed to. Other hard times would be going through different courses, like, I went through CBRN training and I wasn't grabbing, grasping information. So, you know, run it through your friend that knew, you know, all the stuff and was really good at memorizing things and they will help you through that process. Um, hard times as far as like in the fleet when we had, um, like commander general inspections, being there for those individuals that were lacking in certain areas will probably be the best example of creating those bonds.

SPRAGUE: Where did you attend Boot?

TOVAR: Parris Island.

SPRAGUE: And was the training coed or how did that work in terms of gender?

TOVAR: No, not at that time. We did, um, like share the tracks when we did our PFTs and CFTs, but that's really the most we came in contact with the males. I 00:14:00know that they integrated it, I think maybe two years ago. So I missed that, that portion of integration as far as that goes.

SPRAGUE: Do you have any thoughts on that?

TOVAR: Oh, I'm not against it. Honestly, I think that any woman out there is very much, is capable of doing anything that a man can do, if not better. Um, and examples of, like, um, martial arts in those courses, those are coed. And women have to fight men. And no matter if that man is 250 pounds and six-five, you have to grapple him. And you're going to have to figure out what techniques you need to use to win that fight. And I've seen women smaller than me, take down men that's bigger than me just based on technique. And I've seen women, uh, when it comes to inspections, blow out other men in inspections or sitting on 00:15:00reading of the quarter boards, and their profile is more, uh, acceptable or higher safeties and higher PFTs. So I think that them integrating that is actually a good thing. So there's no separation really is just the primary. No matter what your sex is and if you want to be top notch or you want to be, you know that star Marine, you can do that. So I'm okay with it, I think is a great thing they did that.

SPRAGUE: Tell me about your qualifications in terms of shooting.

TOVAR: Expert rifleman. Um, I'm a marksman in pistol. Actually, I wasn't. I wasn't, um, it wasn't necessary for me to get pistol. I just volunteered for my rank. It wasn't necessary, you had to be corporal and up, but I still did it. Um, and it you just said, uh, for shooting.

00:16:00

SPRAGUE: For sure. Yeah. I was curious about your, uh, you qualified as expert.

TOVAR: Yes.

SPRAGUE: Tell us about that, because the public won't know about that.

TOVAR: Oh, man. Rifle range is. Oh, it's a process. You're up at like zero four, zero five in the morning and you're waiting at the armory for like an hour or two for the armorers to get, you know, everything prepared. You finally get your, you know, rifle or your pistol, whatever you're shooting for that day, you're waiting for the buses. You get out there, you have to wait for the instructors to get, you know, the um, either if you're pulling pits, it depends on what range you're at. Get everything prepared. The first two days is usually, um, instruction. So you're learning, you know, your rules and how to handle the weapon. While you're in a fleet, you kind of know that process because you learn it in boot camp. When I went to boot camp, I never shot a gun before, I never even touched one. You know, my mom, she had one, but we couldn't, you know, touch it. So I'd seen one, but I never utilized one. So in boot camp it was a 00:17:00whole different process for me. And, I actually was pretty good at it once I learned how to do it. The range, uh, as far as that goes, it can be fun, but it can be stressful because you're trying to qualify and you have marksman, sharpshooter and then expert. Um, and you just have to focus if you are on a range that you have the pull pits, it's a little bit more physically demanding. But while other people are shooting, you're, you know, shooting up the pits for them and they're taking the shots, you're bringing them down. You got to make sure you're listening to whatever the range coaches are saying because you don't want to make mistakes. I know that there's accidents that do happen in the Marine Corps or other branches as well, where it can be very detrimental to individuals if you're not paying attention and not doing what you're supposed to be in process.

SPRAGUE: So I think for the civilians who are watching or listening to explain to them what the pits are and what you're doing, because I understand it, but 00:18:00they may not.

TOVAR: Pulling pits is pretty much you see, like if you go to a regular range, you'll have like an individual that is like the image of individual. We have like just a circle where we shoot or aim that, you know, you have to hit the bullseye. So you're literally underneath the range and there's bullets flying over you hitting those targets. And you know, you hear the range coaches on the speaker and they'll let you know, like when it's time to pull them. Once those shots stop and they tell you to drop all your grabbing this huge like wooden, um, I don't know how to explain it. Like the wooden portion of it, of the target. You bring those down in that time frame and it depends on the speed of the relay that you're on. You have to change those out quick. Take another wooden board to replace that one. You shoot it up, you get back under there. You know, you have to stay at a certain behind a certain line because there is live fire above your head. They probably could be doing that for hours depending on 00:19:00how big, you know, the classes, how many relays and how many individuals are out there. It's kind of intense, for sure. And you got to make sure that you're just listening because you don't want to put yourself in harm's way. Um, so yeah, that's like the process of pulling pits, pulling them, changing out those relays or those targets and shootin' them back up under a lot of fire. Pretty much. So, it was pretty dope.

SPRAGUE: What would happen, what happened after boot.

TOVAR: What happened after boot? We get our two-day break and then we go directly to Marine combat training. Marine combat training. I don't believe that any other branch has that right after boot camp, unless you're perhaps a grunt, which a grunt is an individual which pretty much goes in for fighting, like they want to get into the nitty gritty right off the back. Um, Marine Corp combat training is a month's worth of learning combat. That's pretty self-explanatory. So, like I said, you're doing, you're learning how to shoot at night with night 00:20:00vision. They drop you. I did mine in North Carolina if I'm not mistaken. They dropped us in the forest, my job, and I'm a city girl, so I'm not familiar with you know, I never camped before. I don't know, like force territory, the pitching force. And they're just like, hey, here's land navigation, which they teach you in the process. And, um, you get, you know, you're with a squad and you pretty much find your way through there. And at that time, they have like instructors kind of like ambush you and you're trying to be stealth in the night also. We do. And that process in the hikes are very treacherous. There there's some days that, you know, you may get to like, you know, shower wet wipes were definitely a thing. And, um, what else is there in Marine combat training? Um, I think that's like the basis of, it's like a month full of just combat. And I don't think that we did any martial arts or like grappling or bugle sticks in 00:21:00Marine combat training was like four years ago. But I do remember a lot of like shooting at night, being in the forest, land navigation, hiking. Um, those were like the basis of what I remember in marine combat training for sure.

SPRAGUE: So after you got out of the MCT, where did you go next?

TOVAR: I went to my MOS school, which is administrative specialist school I'm a zero 111. So I specialize in Admin and where I got stationed I was an S-1, so I did legal as well. Admin, it's broken up in different portions. You have IPAC, then IPAC is then broken up into different portions again, inbound, outbound. You have multiple different sections in that. So when at Admin school you pretty much learn the basis of, you know, attention to detail, paperwork, editing, um, 00:22:00like the basis of like being an administrative specialist. But then once you get to your fleet, you relearn that position because you relearn that and then you also learn other things like ETS, travel, balancing credit cards, accounting, setting up flights, legal, which can be like NJPs, 6105s. So it really depends on where you get placed. But basically that in school is just learning the basics of being administrative specialists. You do the best at what you do.

SPRAGUE: So for the civilians on the line, what is what is an S-1? I know you've just described what they do, I guess.

TOVAR: So the S-1 is pretty much the customer service of your unit, of your squadron. Um, the S-1, we're really like the jack of all trades when it comes to paperwork. We deal with all your files, we deal with people. We deal with people 00:23:00that's on deployment. You follow them, we deal with like I say, we deal with credit cards, we deal with booking flights, um, we deal with, you know, booking cars. We do any type of issues that you have with, like your record to go into your record and we'll contact IPAC and we'll make sure everything's squared away. You have an independent and you get married, we have to input all their information. Outside of that, we're kind of the middleman, S-1 is the middleman for the commanding officer pretty much when it comes to administrative work in the executive officer. So, if there's paperwork or um, or files that's from the S-6 that they need it forwarded to the commanding officer the commanding officer doesn't do any editing or he's not going to do any correction. So there's a huge process. So, sequences their safety and they have a piece of paper that needs to be forwarded to the commanding officer pertaining to like who's the safety 00:24:00officer? Well, initially go through them, it'll be forwarded to the S-1. We do attention to detail like just the simple point of a period being placed out of, you know, being out of place will kick it back to you because everything has to be perfect pretty much. Then it gets sent to the sergeant major. He goes over that same exact paper. If he approves it, then it goes to the executive officer. He'll go over that piece of paper and then it gets forwarded over to the commanding officer. So there's a lot of moving parts for the S-1, and I think that you have to be good at multi-tasking because you'll have something from F6 Then there's a customer that comes in like, "Hey, my range paperwork wasn't submitted," and you have another individual saying, "I'm, I'm getting deployed on or," you know, " I'm MEU next week I need my package set up. And then you have your gunnery sergeant like, "Hey, Tovar, Smokeatelli is getting MJP'd next week. I need you to draw up the paperwork and then you have to commit your other officer. And then, you know, like, by the way, by the end of today, I need a 6105 drawn up. So you have to be able to multitask and you have to be pretty 00:25:00much a subject matter expert. So when you're getting that stuff done, it's like there's no stopping to ask a whole bunch of questions. Once you get that, you know, instruction, you need to learn it. And if you don't stay behind to make sure that you understand that process. So yeah, it's a lot of work for sure, more than people think, you know, people think and they're just like, "Oh, are you just pushing paper?" And just like, you don't understand, there's a lot of moving parts and attention to detail and you're going to get chewed out if it's not correct. And um, it's a lot with it, but you also still get aspects of like physical stuff because on top of the work that you do, do you still have to PT like the other sections, the zero 500, you're out there, you know, hittin' that run with the gunnery sergeant and also they volunteer you to do things and you can volunteer as well. So at the same time I'm doing admin stuff, I'm still doing my workouts, then I'm doing MCMAP, you know, in my free time or I'm on another course learning CBRN which has nothing to do with my MOS, and deals with 00:26:00and chemical and radiation and all that. But I'm building my own, you know, record. So if you're motivated, you can get all that stuff done.

SPRAGUE: Why did you choose admin assistant or administrative specialist, sorry.

TOVAR: So actually why did I choose it. I had a lot of different options 'cuz I, you know, I scored pretty high on the ASVAB and I was like an alpha female and three things looked, was pretty interesting for for me when I looked at the sheet as in Communications, I seen Supply, and I seen Admin. I asked my uncle and my aunt and they were supply they were supply chiefs. They, you know, they did other things. They had they had different details like energy, even though he was a drill instructor and stuff like that. But their actual MOS was supply and um, I thought, I thought admin, I just knew that I was good at paperwork and 00:27:00I went to school for about a year for business administration. So, I was just like, that seems like something that might be interesting for me. I didn't know what came with it, but I knew that it had something to do with paperwork and interacting with other people and customer service, and I think I'm pretty good at it, so that's why I chose it.

SPRAGUE: And when did you go to the business admin school?

TOVAR: Oh, like in college or.

SPRAGUE: Yeah, yeah.

TOVAR: 2015.

SPRAGUE: Okay.

TOVAR: Yes.

SPRAGUE: So what happened before you got in the corps?

TOVAR: That was before I went in.

SPRAGUE: Any other coursework beyond you know, other than that.

TOVAR: No. Um, in the Marine Corps., you do have courses that you take on Marine online, which is an actual university. You can transfer over the credits to, like, a regular university when you get out or while you're in to like the ACE accreditations. So I did take courses while I was in the Marine Corps and I left with like forty-something credits, so like an admin and stuff, so if we had to 00:28:00take like courses on spelling. I did some language courses that counted as credits. So that's what I did while was in.

SPRAGUE: So a couple acronym checks for the civilians. What is a MEU?

TOVAR: A MEU is one of those huge ships. You partner with the Navy and it depends on where you're going. You know, sometimes MEUs top at different locations like Bahrain and there's some that stop in Hawaii. I'm not sure of all the operations why they're on there, because I've never been on it myself. But I have filled out the paperwork for individuals to go when they're in my unit. But, it's pretty much a huge ship that the Navy, Marine Corps and I'm not sure who else goes on there. And they do missions and I don't know what those missions entail. And, but they stop at multiple places, sometimes like six months, sometimes they're nine months. And it really depends on, you know, what they tell you. Sometimes you think you go for six months and you stay for nine 00:29:00months, but it's pretty much a ship that you go on and you complete missions for your unit.

SPRAGUE: And what's an IPAC.

TOVAR: IPAC is and I would say the customer service of the base. So you have squadrons, you have, you know, the headquarters, you have different sections throughout the, the base that you're on. But IPAC does like, so, if say for instance there someone is getting deployed in my unit or say, no, getting orders and let's say they're getting orders to a different base and they re-enlisted and they're going to let's say Quantico. So I'll get the paperwork ready and I'll have to send it up to IPAC so IPAC can send it to Quantico. So they do pretty much like everything for the entire base and they're over pretty much all the S-1s, the smaller brackets of an Admin. So they do outbound, inbound, they 00:30:00do arrivals when you come in and you have your new orders, you have to report to the IPAC so you can let them know, "Hey, I'm checking into this new base," and then they'll send you to your parent command, which will be your squadron or wherever you're stationed, you know, wherever your duty is, and they'll send you there. So it's the bigger version of, I guess you'd say the S-1.

SPRAGUE: So after MOS school, where you go next?

TOVAR: I was stationed in San Diego, California, at Miramar Air Station.

SPRAGUE: And what unit were you in there?

TOVAR: MTACS-38.

SPRAGUE: And could you give us the full acronym what that stands for?

TOVAR: Yes. MTACS is Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron-38.

SPRAGUE: Okay. And what what was a typical day like there, for you?

TOVAR: Was there atypical day? Depends on what was going on. Typical day will be PT 00:31:00in the morning. Zero-500. We go after PT, you get chow, which is your food. Then we transition to going into the office. Well, you know shower change over there. We report to our gunnery sergeant. He gave us the, um, plan of the day, which we'll call the battle rhythm, which before that I was the individual that had to come in and like do the reporting for attendance. So there was noone that went, you know, know other place, like AWOL or whatever, and make sure everyone was reported in each section. Then we had to plan the day. So whatever you're gunnery sergeant or your officer told you what you have to do. So if you have to do, um, you know, orders that day, you're in complete orders. If you had to do legal that day, you're doing a legal. And that's like the basis of what you're doing. Now, if you were doing a course, you'll be able to step out for that day to go do, you know, MCMAP or, you know, CBRN training or wherever your T, if you 00:32:00were TAD, you know, do that for that day or if you had a course, if you were just, you know, promoted to lance corporal or, you know, to corporal or sergeant, you have to go do your course. So every day varied, in general, but it was pretty much complete the mission that your gunnery sergeant or whoever was above you had done and win that battle rhythm. Chow time would be around twelve, eat your chow. But that was also PT time so you PT again. And then you eat and then you go back in and knock out whatever paperwork or your assignments for the day was. And if they weren't done, you're staying a little later. So usually we'll get out around, the goal was to get out around four or five. But there's like nights that you get out seven or eight, depending on the day. Ater that, you're able to, you know, go to your barracks or wherever you lived and, you 00:33:00know, to go with your family and stuff like that. And if you lived on base, single, usually you go to the gym again or hang out with a few of the Marine friends at the Hub, which is like our, like game room for things are sort of have movies there and just be able to, you know, chill out with other Marines and you know, and relax for the day.

SPRAGUE: So you had, was it a gunnery sergeant that ran that S-1 detachment or section

TOVAR: Yes. So, when I initially came into the unit, we had a officer, um, she, well, I know she's a major now, but I forget what her rank was when we, when I first came in and she was over the section and then I had a sergeant above me and I was PFC at that time, and then she got stationed somewhere else. And then we had a gunnery, another gunnery sergeant from Supply step in for second until they were able to get orders for a new gunnery sergeant and unfortunate for me 00:34:00they're going to start came off the drill field and he was on the drill field for about eight years prior to that. So, drill instructors, I would say, they're like the motivated, most motivated like individuals there is. Like, they're squared away when it comes to uniform. They're very fit, they're motivated. They go above and beyond. That would be like the description of a drill instructor. So if you have like a pretty smooth section going on and you guys are kind of lax, if a drill instructor comes in, that's not, that's not going, how it goes. You're given the proper greeting that day, you're standing up. You're, you know, "Yes, sir." You know, not, well, that's to officers, but, "Good to go gunnery sergeant." You're on your Ps and Qs. You're not walking to go do what he tells you to do. You're pretty much sprinting to knock out what you need to. So when I came in, it was a little bit more lax. But then when he got stationed where we were at, it was it was that the PT, PT, PT. Stuff gets done in a timely manner. 00:35:00All those things that you learned in boot camp that you might have became a little bit lax on while you were in the fleet, you're pretty much re-learning or you're using those, um, traits. So, I would say it's unfortunate because, you know, you had that chill space, but then when they came in just they kind of reminded you like, hey, you know, this is what you learned and this is what you are right now. So keep it up. So it's fortunate but unfortunate in a certain way.

SPRAGUE: Tell me about doing PT twice a day.

TOVAR: Oh man, PT twice a day. Aye, yie, yie. I'm going to tell you, I don't miss that. I do still PT now but that's nothing like the Marine Corps PT. The morning our, our gunnery seargent you know, liked to run so there was you know usually like three mile runs in the morning and then go to a lot of pull ups. Sometimes, he'll like to run the hills. If you were stationed in California, you understand the hills and the mountains, there's, you know, ruck hikes up the 00:36:00mountains in California. So it's a little bit more intense, I feel like, for me than other places because you're running on like flat land, you know, doin' the elevation is definitely a challenge. Sometimes there was competition, you know, friendly competitions were we'll do like basketball, which is very rare, but, you know, basketball stuff like that. We have like friendly unit competitions outside of that. We'll do HIT sometimes in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon. HIT is high intensity training, if i'm not mistaken. And that's just it's what it is. It's it's really it's a lot of different exercises at a high intensity and you're not pretty much given any breaks in that. It definitely took a strain on my body because I wasn't used to working out that much. And you kind of get adjusted to it at first. But then if your body just can't keep up, 00:37:00it can't keep up too. So it was definitely a challenge, um, doing that as often as I was doing it.

SPRAGUE: Tell. What is the. You keep using the term fleet. Explain that to the listeners.

TOVAR: The fleet. So when you join boot camp, you know, you're not a Marine yet. You have to earn that title. When you receive the EGA, that's when you have the title. But you still don't, you're still not knowledgeable in your MOS. So that's why you have to go through the Marine combat training so that you can, first of all, every Marine is a rifleman. So you your initial, when you come in, you have to be prepared to go to war, even if you're admin, even if you're a cook, even if you do supply, at the end of the day you're going to do whatever the Marine Corps needs you to do and you have to be prepared to, to do that. So you'll go to the Marine combat training, then you go to your in MO school. Once you go to you MO school and you learn your MOS, then you're sent to the fleet. 00:38:00The fleet is where you're stationed pretty much. So, you can be stationed in California, you can be stationed in Hawaii, you can be stationed in Germany and that's where you go and you do your MOS and you contribute to the Marine Corps in that manner that you join. So, the fleet is pretty much the real deal. You know, you're kind of in La-La land once you get out of boot camp. You're just like, you know, super motivated, "Let's do it." And you go to combat training and you're kind of still in La-La land because you're just like, "Oh, this is what the Marine Corps is." And then you go through MOS school, you're still in a certain La-La land, and then you hit the fleet, and that's when your real deal, dealing with missions and your real deal supporting whatever unit you're in and whatever their objective is or mission is. So, every person or every MOS has their moving parts, but it's all to complete a mission. So, whatever, like, you know, I was in tactical command and stuff like that. So, they're sending signals 00:39:00out to planes, even though that's not what my job is, are, are sending signals out for certain missions, even though that's not what my job is. But if I'm not doing my job, then I'm not able to support the individuals are sitting those, you know, certain things even though that's not what I do. So, when you hit the fleet, it's now grind time where there's missions that the Marine Corps sending out to certain units and you have to do what you need to do. So, it's not just fun and games. You're doing things that are and it's just it's a more serious side. But in my opinion.

SPRAGUE: What's a EGA?

TOVAR: EGA is the Eagle, Globe and Anchor. You'll see it, you know, in that like red circle. And it's the Marine Corps symbol that they use or the symbol that the Marine Corps uses.

SPRAGUE: Do you think what do you think the relationship was between people who were in the line companies and as one shop, in terms of how do they think how do 00:40:00you think they think about thought about you and the S-1 shop as a whole, you know?

TOVAR: The thing is, is that Marine Corps, you know, it is it has a serious sides, but there's a lot of like, you know, joking and judgment and you just can't be like, you know, super soft. So, Supply, you know, they looked at them as like, you know, it's an easy job, and in the day that, you know, what is the saying that they say? Bullets can't fly without supply. They are important. They call, you know, Admin people "paper pushers." So, you know, if you're on the other side and say you're working more to you and you're out there physically, you know, replacing engines and, you know, doing all the physical work and you see, you know, Admin come in with the cleaning camis and they're just, you know, nails done. And but, you know, they are still exhausted because they're doing more intellectual stuff. They might think of you as a little bit more maybe 00:41:00weak, but once, you know, the other side comes in and they see us and it's just like a whole bunch of smoke and paperwork going on and they need something done and you're just like, 'Okay, I'll fit you in." Or, they see how long the process actually takes, or they're out on a, you know, field operation in Yuma and their card declines and you need the Admin person to, to clear that stuff up for you. They realize like how important Admin really is or when they're transitioning off the record or they have new orders and they need that paperwork because they have to, you know, report at a certain time. And now you need that Marine that you thought was pretty much useless because they didn't do physical things. So everyone's opinion is different. And I think it depends on how you interact and what experiences you have with, you know, Admin. So, but usually it's paper pushers, you know, like, oh, you guys pushing paper, but until you really need us, you understand that we are a really important moving part.

00:42:00

SPRAGUE: Tell me about passing inspections and preparing for inspections.

TOVAR: Passing inspections. Inspections are stressful. First of all, you prepare like six months out for these inspections. Like I tell you Record and Admin is specifically, attention to detail is very important. Like I said, at a certain point of a period being placed correctly and having those, that space in between it, um, and just being accurate. You have individuals coming in from the commanding general's office and they pretty much tear up your, your records cabinets and they want to make sure everything's in chronological order and everything is correctly submitted. And they go through all your systems and they're going through your files on your computer, making sure those things are correct. Things were submitted in a timely manner. So you're pretty much taking six months to go through the files for like two years, from two years ago, and 00:43:00making sure those were, you know, accurate. And then on top of that, they test your knowledge. So, it's one thing to have all your paperwork squared away, but they're going to sit there. They're gonna bring in a questionnaire and they ask you specifics or certain areas and "When is this date?" "When does this paperwork have to be filed in?" "What's you know," "what's DTS?" "What does it mean?" "What are the moving parts of DTS?" "How do you contact customer service?" You know, "If you get orders, you know, what, what time frame does it need to go to the commanding officer?" Just random stuff like that and you have to know that that information. So, once you know you're getting inspected, they usually issue out certain areas to you. So, when I did mine, I had, um, I think I had like, I know I had DTS, um, I had, I had promotions because we print out their promotion paperwork and create the files for it. And you just pretty, and 00:44:00I had another too, I took care of someone else's that wasn't able to do theirs. And, um, I studied for hours. Like I would stay behind after work to 7:00 to 8:00 at night, and I'll learn information that I need to know the Marine Corps manuals. Some weekends I came in just so I can know the information. In the past, there were no discrepancies or errors, but it was when I when I first started, a lot of the information I didn't know. And then I was really happy that I sat there and read all those manuals, so boring. But, uh, yeah, it's pretty much just testing your knowledge and making sure that your unit is squared away. And if it's not, they're going to give you discrepancies. And the thing is that they reported back to your commanding officer that if you fail you have to do it again, and they reported back to the commanding general of your actual base. So, it's a big deal.

SPRAGUE: Sounds like a lot of work.

00:45:00

TOVAR: This is a lot of work.

SPRAGUE: And after hours, it sounds like above and beyond.

TOVAR: It is above and beyond. But that's part of being a Marine.

SPRAGUE: So did you have any deployments or training exercises and how did that work?

TOVAR: I did not have any deployments. Training exercises are pretty much like field operations, even though that like I wouldn't say a part of my MOS, but if my unit needed me to do a field operation, I would do it. Even if it's just sitting there and standing guard for the operation. Hold your rifle. You have to do it. Um, I did do like other courses, I guess at CBRN, I did some training with military police. They have their own, like, martial arts. And it's like training for individuals that don't have the MOS is in partnership with MP which is military police. So you do get to experience other things other than deployments in other MLS is if you choose or sometimes you are "volun-told" to 00:46:00hop on those courses and those are not the best. But once you get there and you get the groove, they just think, "Oh, okay, I'm going to actually benefit from this."

SPRAGUE: What, when you roll to the field with your unit, how does the S-1 shop get out there and what does that look like? If you can tell me.

TOVAR: Well, the S1 shop usually we don't do S-1 work in the field, so there is an S-1 individual that stays back because there's operations and missions that need to be completed while we're gone. So every section has people that stay back so that they're still, you know, doing what they're supposed to. So we're, we're, we're pretty much out there with the other units doing what they're supposed to, what we're supposed to. We're setting up tents. We're setting up, you know, we're setting up the racks. We're getting, you know, the space. We're 00:47:00pretty much set up the whole military operation. It depends on what they need you to do if you're inside, you know, working as like guard and, you know, being able to scan people in or if you're sitting as guard around the perimeter of the field operation, you're sitting in for hours with your rifle. You get you know, you change out sometimes from outside to inside. They pretty much have S-1 kind of fill-in places that they need you. And that's, like I said, part of being a Marine is not your MOS, you're still going to have to be able to do that as well.

SPRAGUE: But are you involved at all in the unit transitioning before you were discharged?

TOVAR: So like a exchange of the commanding officer?

SPRAGUE: Yeah. Looks like MTACS-38, was decommissioned in November 19th, 2021, and then it became, it went up to the I want to say the command level above that 00:48:00it kind of folded up under the control group.

TOVAR: Oh, I thought they were under control before that.

SPRAGUE: They were, but then it sounds like they got rolled up. I was just curious if you had anything to do with that or not.

TOVAR: I do not recall us changing like a position. I know that we are one of the supporting squadrons. I think it were seven under MSAG. I didn't work at in MSAG for a few months.

SPRAGUE: Okay. So that was my next question.

TOVAR: Yeah. Towards the end of this move, but I don't remember a change. I just know that there's certain support squadrons underneath the headquarters, which is in MACG-38. I was there for a change of commanding, the commanding officer and executive officer, but I don't remember it being, that it changed from like a regular squadron to being just a headquarter or anything like that, but that it still was underneath MSAG.

00:49:00

SPRAGUE: Okay. I think you're right. Tell me a little bit about CBRN training and police training and what CBRN and.

TOVAR: CBRN is chemical. But please don't. I mean, I guess you're gonna have to quote me anyway, but chemical, biologic, bio something, then radiation and nuclear. Um, and that's what it, like, stands for. There's actual in West Ford itself, we pretty much go under like a nuclear attack, an individual specialized in being able to pretty much protect us if we were to go through that. So that's one of the reasons why we go through like the gas chamber and things of that sort. So the individuals that run the gas chamber, everyone has to go to the gas chamber like boot camp, and then we have annual training for it. So everyone has to still go through the gas chamber like twice a year, if I'm not mistaken. And those individuals that run the gas chamber that burn the, you know, see, I think 00:50:00it's seed gas or something like that. They are CBRN and that's their MOS. But they also have training for people in units that can be representatives from those units just in case, say for instance there's a CBRN individual not there, and we are under attack and it's a, you know, a radiation attack or nuclear attack, we're able to fulfill some, I guess you would say, be able to get our unit prepared for that. So, like getting those gas, getting those gas masks prepared. Being able to spot places that are unsafe. Um, just like things of that sort. So, well, we took a course, so we're able to, you know, learn what see what CBRN learns within a short amount of time to be able to be a representative for our unit and pretty much help to protect our unit if we were ever under a certain attack, I guess you would say. Police training. MP training 00:51:00is just pretty much it was more of like martial arts. We were learned how to like restrain an individual if they came on base and they were, you know, threatening the base and things of that sort. So honestly, MP training is pretty similar to regular marine training, but you just are more in depth on restraining the individual and being, having open eyes for certain things that's irregular, that's happening on base. And that, that course, is only like a few weeks as well.

SPRAGUE: Tell me about Marine Corps martial arts.

TOVAR: Marine Corps Martial Arts, MCMAP. So, in boot camp, you initially learn you have to, you have to graduate with the tan belt. So you go through your first course in boot camp, and that's for the tan belt. And that's pretty much all you need as far as, like, being a Marine is to have the tan belt. Now, once 00:52:00you get to your unit or the fleet, it's your unit's discretion if they want you to belt up and also you can volunteer and belt up. Sometimes it's your section's decision. So, you go to a unit, and they don't care about belting up. But you're a gun, your gunnery sergeant is like, "No, I want everyone here to be at least a brown belt or at least a green belt." So you have to go through the courses. I mean, on the other hand, I just like martial arts, it was, it was fun to me and I just wanted to be the top of who I was and challenge myself. So Marine combat training or not Marine combat training or MCMAP is a form of martial arts that they took different techniques from different types of fighting. I guess I'm not I don't know the what's the word for it? So you have some jiu jitsu in it, you have some boxing in it, you have a grappling. Um, so different techniques from different types of martial arts or fighting groups or whatever the case may be, 00:53:00and integrated into one system and only thing difference between those is that in MCMAP you're trained to kill. So, like in regular martial arts, you're just pretty much taught to like restrain the individual or, you know, keep them in a headlock until they like tap out. In Marine Corps martial arts, you're, you're taught to go through with that technique to kill them, even though we're not killing our, you know, counterparts while we're doing it. That's what you're pretty much symbolizing, which I'm sure you have to go through as well. Each level gets harder, obviously, and it's, it's physical. It's coed, like I said. So you're boxing men, you grappling men. They're body slamming you. They're doing shoulder tosses where they're flipping you over their body and slamming you on the ground. And that's like one of the techniques you have to learn. Um, it takes the air out of you sometimes, but it builds you and makes you stronger 00:54:00in general. So, every course is different, every instructor's different. Some instructors like to do it in the morning, some instructors like to do it in the evening. Some instructors like spending more time on the actual technique. Some instructors like to spend more time on PT because you're doing PT while you do it as well, you're running and you have to be, you know, fit and things of that sort during that course. So, that's like the basis of the martial arts training. Once you learn the techniques, you have to go through a series of tests or just a test to be able to receive your belt. So, it's going to be grappling. It's going to be going through every single technique that's in that belt course. So, if you do a brown belt, there's like, maybe, I don't know, twenty or thirty techniques that you would have to learn, I would say don't quote me, but you have to know those to a tee. There's no messing it up. And if you do, you have to either retake the course or you have to retest. And it depends on the 00:55:00instructor if they feel like they gave you enough time. And so if you failed to course, you just failed the course. Um, so yeah, that's the basis of it.

SPRAGUE: So, did you get time off from your unit to do this, or was it, that. How did that, or was it just part of PT, or?

TOVAR: No, it depended on the belt. So, my gray belt I did with an instructor during my lunch time. So, I took my free time and did it. My green belt, I did, I did my green bill actually during a field operation. So, I worked like eight to twelve hour shift and sleep in a tent. And we had a little bit of time to go by two back to our barracks and, you know, shower or whatever we wanted to, or be able to see your family for a few hours before you had to come back to the operation. And I took that time to get my green belt because I wanted it. And there was an instructor that was on the field operation running a course for the 00:56:00unit. So, I just said, "Hey, toss me on that course." So, once again, took some more free time. And then my brown belt course, I did that, what did he have? I think I was after work. So, all of it was on my free time and all of my courses were volunteer. There was like other people in my section. Once they saw that I was he started seeing that I was like, been in the extra work, he became, made it mandatory for everyone else to belt up, so, not everyone liked that, but it is what it is and I'm not gonna stop doin' what I do even if you guys didn't want to, so all of my belts are volunteer and in my free time, and I wanted 'em

SPRAGUE: What else did you wind up with?

TOVAR: The brown belt, one belt under black

SPRAGUE: What you mentioned you had spent a couple months with. I'm going to 00:57:00guess it's Mac G,-Mac, Mac Mac G30 or how do you make that?

TOVAR: MACG-38.

SPRAGUE: Tell me about that.

TOVAR: So, I filled in a position there underneath the colonel because he worked at the headquarters. I worked in their S-1 And it's pretty much the same difference as the S-1, the squadron that I was at. But, since the headquarters is over, like I think it was like six or seven squadrons, they, they forward their information to headquarters and the headquarters forwards it over to IPAC depending on what the information is. So, if there's certain people coming through orders or they were requesting SAFE, or a gunnery sergeant requesting to be on a course. Obviously, you go through headquarters and, you know, the commanding officer and colonel will make a decision on if they want to take a gunnery sergeant out of their position to go do a course. So we're like a middleman. We're not the middle, they were like the top dog pretty much of all 00:58:00the squadrons. And we work closely underneath the colonel, and that's a little bit more stressful than just like I wouldn't say a regular commanding officer because we made our officers a big deal, but the colonel was like a huge deal. Um, and sometimes you work with the CG, depending on what he had us do as well, sort of knock out his stuff to do.

SPRAGUE: You find you were more busy at Group and at Squadron. They're about the same.

TOVAR: Oh, I think I was more busy in Techs, uh, my parents command,. So, they had some really smart individuals working at, um, the headquarters, and they got things done like that was, that was their thing. So either they, they were knocking out things within minutes that some people would take, you know, an hour to knock out. So I would say the people that worked at headquarters are like really subject matter experts at what they did and they didn't waste any 00:59:00time. I think the squadron because it's a little bit more lax and um, you're not really being like, uh, micromanaged by the commanding officer. You're just like whenever it's ready, I'm sending it up to them. The colonel was like, okay, this stuff went in. It needs to come out today, you know? And that depends, like I said, on your your section and who's above your section. They just held the office to a certain standard. So when you're leaving for the day, there's nothing really left behind it. The headquarters is everything needs to be knocked out today. So I think that was a little bit less work because the Marines in there were overachievers.

SPRAGUE: While you were in your unit. Both it impacts and it actually. Did you 01:00:00have any memorable people or people that. Your sisters that you knew maybe in those units?

TOVAR: Let's see, memorable people. Um. Yes, that's. That's for sure. I mean, I had, um, I made, friends for sure, like my friend India. She ended up transitioning out of after her four years. My sergeant, he was really motivating on those days I didn't feel like pushing through. You know, some sergeants can be interesting individuals, but he really did care about his grades and our well-being and our mental health and things that we had going on outside of the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps kinda consumes you. And it's like you live, breathe, you know, the Marine Corps every day. And people sometimes I feel like 01:01:00higher ups forget that, you know, we have personal things going on. Sometimes people die in your family or you're going through relationship issues and you have other stuff going on. And he cared about other things that we had going on. And um, I would say definitely my sergeant had an impact on me. And today we still talk. He lives in Houston. Think he's a nurse now. So, yeah, I think he probably left a huge impact on me as far as like being beside his like pride and being like a sergeant in charge. Everyone actually was just like, I'm in charge of you all, but I care about you as well. It will be in as well. And what happens to you here, and if you get out?

SPRAGUE: So was he a sergeant or was he a gunnery sergeant?

TOVAR: No, I'm talking to my sergeant. I had a sergeant above me.

SPRAGUE: Okay. And would you consider sharing his name or not?

TOVAR: Oh, yes. Anthony Taylor.

SPRAGUE: Okay.

TOVAR: Sergeant Anthony Taylor.

01:02:00

SPRAGUE: How about, interesting incidents that happened like stand out days or less than stand out days when you were in those units?

TOVAR: Interesting incidents. I feel like you get a lot of interesting incidents in the S-1, especially when people get in trouble because you get to get, you get to see all of those privacy posts, you know, in situations. But interesting outside of that and I know I can't share that information. So um, interesting days would be like the CO stepping out for PT with us, I think is like weird. Whenever he comes out, the office is everyone's just like super uptight. And then he comes out, he just, like, competes with us and he's just, like, acting as if he's a normal guy. I think that was, like, interesting. It was not. It was very rare. It was he was very, um, like, you know, closed off. But those kind of days, I feel like he came out relaxed and, you know, he was open to everyone. 01:03:00That's when all of the higher ups, they kind of just calm down. They were able to play basketball or play Frisbee and actually enjoy each other's company without the, the oh, I'm a higher rank than you or you, you have to say this to me. Just kind of all of us enjoy each other as individuals and um, just being Marines. Um, other interesting days is like a unit, I want to say field trips. I forget what they're called, but like, we do hikes and stuff. So we'll go out on town, off base, and we're regular civvies, or military or civilian attire. Um, and we're able to go to hikes and grab food. Um, I mean, I think that any Marine will agree with me. The Ball is always a highlight. Every year we celebrate the Marine Corps birthday, and, um, everyone kind of lets loose. You know, you bring in your individual that you want to come, you can have your friend come, you can have your significant other, your spouse, come, whoever. And that time we just 01:04:00celebrate being a marine and celebrate the institution, and we have some drinks and there's always a deejay, and usually it's a good deejay, and you look up and the lights goin' and you're standing, you're dancing next to, you know, um, you know, a major and there's a gunnery sergeant next to you, pop lockin', and we're all just enjoying each other and are, you know, celebrating the fact of the institution is actually taking really good care of us realistically. So those are probably like some highlights or interesting things out of experience for the record.

SPRAGUE: What did you do when your had downtime, when you weren't on duty?

TOVAR: I was stationed in San Diego, luckily. So, um, I did some kayaking on the ocean when I had downtime. Hikes was actually fun when I didn't have, you know, big rucksacks and a gunnery sergeant screaming in the background. So, me, my friends, we 01:05:00definitely did hikes and horseback riding. And that was my first time when I moved out to San Diego. So, I've kept it a thing. Once I got on the horse for the first time, I was like, "Oh yeah, I could get used to this." So, horseback riding. Um, sometimes we go to, like, L.A. and go to museums, escape rooms, so you can stay pretty active in California. So,I definitely loved getting stationed there for sure.

SPRAGUE: So, any kind of volunteer activities?

TOVAR: Oh, yes. I was actually the single marine program representative for my unit. Single Marine program is what is self-explanatory. As for Marines, it are not married and usually those don't have any kids. You know, it varies. Usually when you're taking your station in a different place, you don't have family out there and usually don't know the area. So that's that's the objectives of the 01:06:00single Marine program is to get those Marines out of their barracks, really to keep them from being depressed and lonely. So, they find events for them outside of just like regular events, like parties, pizza parties, pool competitions. there's volunteer events. So, we'll volunteer at schools, we'll volunteer on base and volunteer at homeless shelters or whatever things in the community that needed to be done. You know, Marines were open to do so. So, I was able to participate in multiple roles and also be the representative for a unit for those Marines and send out those fliers and get people on board to be able to participate as well.

SPRAGUE: What what was your experience of of race? Oh, you were in, um.

TOVAR: Race. Uh, I think that Marines don't really look at race realistically. I mean, you have your onesies, twosies. But realistically, once your brain is like 01:07:00you're just green, you're there's no there's no race. There's no gender. Um, there's just like, hey, my brother-, sister-at-arms, and let's get things done. Uh, obviously there is different demographics if you do to go into a unit, um, it's usually more men. I think the, I forget the statistic of how many men compared to a ratio of men or women. But in the Marine Corps, I think it's like maybe 80% men or something like that, if I'm not mistaken. Um, yeah, I think it's about like 80% men. So it is a, it's a lot of guys, but there is, you know, a good amount of girls. And then as far as like race goes, um, it's, it's predominantly Caucasian, uh, the Marine Corps. Um, but you do get different, you know, different demographic, demographics in there. I'm like, I have a friend 01:08:00that's Tongan. Before I joined the Marine Corps, I didn't even know what Tongan was. I knew like Pacific Islander wasn't Samoan and stuff like that, but I know what Tongan was, and I met a friend there who was Tongan. Being from the city I, you know, there is a lot of individuals so you know, you meet Mexican friends and you meet African-Americans, you meet people that's actually from Africa, there's individuals that's actually from other countries that do join the Marine Corps as well. So you don't get to experience a lot of different people, a lot of different races. Um, I did not listen to country music before I joined the Marine Corps. So, those nights, some of those nights we have our little like barracks get togethers, um, and people play their, their own music from where they're from and it expands your thought process and you're able to experience other people's cultures through the Marine Corps. So now I was to the little Brian Combs and coming back to Chicago and my family's just like, "Uh, are you okay?" I'm just like, "Yeah, I am." But, I was able to experience other cultures 01:09:00for sure, despite the huge gap in race.

SPRAGUE: Yeah. How about sexual orientation issues?

TOVAR: Oh, no, I. Luckily, I joined after the don't ask, don't tell era. And, um, you'll be surprised how many people are open and out, nowadays and I was able to be open and out and I don't feel like I got judged. You know, everyone can have their own opinion. You know, you do have people that have religious preferences and you're not really allowed to, I'm not saying you're not allowed to speak on it, but if it's going to offend someone or make someone feel uncomfortable, then you you pretty much should not say it and you're not allowed to. But yeah, I was, I'm openly gay and I was able to bring women to the ball. And when we had events, you know, for our unit, I was able to bring, you know, 01:10:00my partners and I didn't feel uncomfortable. I'll have Gunnery Sergeants come up and introduce themselves to those individuals. So now, I mean, everyone has their own experience. For me, I didn't feel like I was out of place, at least in my unit.

SPRAGUE: Any observations of issues of gender identity?

TOVAR: Um, not that I know. I just, I knew one individual that was going through a transition and, um, I think TRICARE was paying for the transition. Um, so I don't know, they didn't tell me that they were having much of an issue when it came to and then they had to go to like a lot of therapy or stuff like that prior to being able to go through that. And they were getting their surgery like a month later and I met them in a single marine program and only talked to that individual, like, maybe twice, and they kind of disappeared into, you know, the mist, but they most likely had deployed or, you know, stationed somewhere else. Um, but that's the only one that I was that I encountered as far as, you know, 01:11:00being like non-binary or transgender. And to my knowledge, to my experience, they were, they were comfortable and they were, they were comfortable enough to share their experience with me. Um, so, like I say, everyone else, everyone has their own experience, but for me, I didn't notice anything different about like individuals are non-binary or transgender. Um, so yeah.

SPRAGUE: Any other experiences in that, either with gender or orientation and you'd like to share?

TOVAR: Experiences?

SPRAGUE: In regards, with the Marine Corps and yeah

TOVAR: Um. No, I wouldn't say not really. I mean, I've met a lot of individuals that are happy that they're able to be open and out, you know, and even moving here I was able to run into veterans that um, are in the LGBT community that are 01:12:00older and they want to hear my stories and they want to hear how my experience was being openly, you know, gay in the Marine Corps because at that time they were in secret and they had to close off a huge part of themselves. And it's, it's, it took me back because I'll hear their stories and I'm like, how did you get through that? Because my sexual orientation is a huge part of who I am. And how I'm able to present myself is a huge part of who I am or be able to cut my hair or be able to dress. And I feel like that would have stressed me out so bad. Not be, not to be me, to pretend I was a person for years. So, I think that I get more of like taking back, getting out and being able to meet veterans of older age, that had to go through certain things. Being in the Marine Corps, I have friends that are openly gay and, you know, they were able to bring their partners to, you know, balls and get-togethers. I've dated individuals that are 01:13:00in the military that are openly gay. And you don't feel like we have to hide it to hold your hand on base, hold, you know, your partner's hand on base and bring your wife. I actually got married while I was in the Marine Corps to a woman and no one treated me any different. I got congratulations from Sergeant Major and my CO and things of that sort. So, for me it was a positive experience. I do understand that other portion of individuals that didn't get that experience and honestly, they're happy that, you know, people can be out now and they have to put up a fight for us. And um, I'm, I'm more than grateful for those individuals that had to go through the things that they had to go through for us to be able to live comfortable and just be ourselves.

01:14:00

SPRAGUE: Okay. Any, any issues with sexual harassment?

TOVAR: Um, I prefer not to talk on that. Okay.

SPRAGUE: No problem.

TOVAR: Sure.

SPRAGUE: Okay. Um, so getting back to, uh, why did you decide to leave the Marine Corps?

TOVAR: It wasn't really much of a decision. I end up getting injured while I was in. I got re-occurring stress fractures and really bad back. So I MED sepped um my last year actually was last year in my contract. So um. Yeah, not much of the decision there.

SPRAGUE: Could it be from having twice a day.

TOVAR: In that it was oh, it was so much running in. At first I just thought that I was getting shin splints. Everyone gets shin splits, you know. So.

SPRAGUE: Yeah, um.

TOVAR: That's what I thought it was. And one day I was just like, You can't run. 01:15:00You got to go to medical today. And you learn it. You know, you can fractures your legs from running so much. So like I said before, everyone's body is different. So people could keep up with that standard, which is not really standard. It's really, you know, units discretion or how often you run. But um, you know, some people's bodies can't keep up with it. And um, I'm just still fortunate that I was able to experience the Marine Corps and experience the PT You and I've never experienced anything like it and a lot of people have it and will never. So I'm still grateful.

SPRAGUE: What was going through your head when you knew you had to get out? What were you thinking?

TOVAR: And I was able to process prior to because I was like, Oh, I'm on limited duty for a while. And I think when I first got injured, I was really like 01:16:00distraught because, um, at the time I would be like that star marine first class PFC, first class CFT, expert rifleman, you know, volunteer veterans, representative for a unit for single Marine program, build up to brown belt. As a lance corporal, I was like that star. And when I got injured, like my vision of being in the Marine Corps for a long, long term kinda diminished over time. And I realized like my body is not going to go back to what it was. So, in the beginning, it was definitely a hard pillow, pill to swallow. Um, and then over time you just like, allright, you got to create a new plan for yourself. And um, that transition out was a tad bit more smoother because I knew what was coming in. And um, I had to just come to the understanding that it me being a lifer was just not going to happen. So, it was, it was tough process, but by the time it 01:17:00was time for transitions. But I understood that this is this is what, what is a part of my journey and my destiny.

SPRAGUE: What was that transition like.

TOVAR: Oh, the transition to becoming a civilian? It's challenging. It's different for everyone. Um, I don't think that you're ever completely ready. Um, you can sit at TRS like, five times, and, which is like a transition seminar. You can tell yourself you're going to do this school and you're going to do this job, and, um, you're excited to be able to dye your hair a certain color and get your. You know. You look at all those pros, but then once you get out of the military, sometimes you kind of miss that structure. You kind of feel a little, for me at least I felt a little lost because I'm so used to reporting to someone, you know, when I wake up in the morning, when I go on leave, you know, 01:18:00letting them know I made it to, you know, my family and my flights and spend a certain amount of my out. You had to report that too, like it depends, like I said, unit discretion, um, like buying a car and stuff. You had to let your gunnery sergeant know you're buying a car. Um, so when I got out, it was just like this awkward silence in my life. That's how I describe it. Um, noone was calling me, noone was texting me,"Hey Tovar, where you at? Watcha doin'?" You know? So, I kinda felt a little alone, a little bit. And you know, and my friends are still goin' through their processes, they're transitioning out. Then usually, you know, that four-year mark, you know, you make your friends this in that four-year mark. So some people are staying in, some people are transitioning out, some people are going to different branches, some people are getting MED sep. Um, so, everyone's going through their own motions and you're just trying to adjust. And civilians, there are a little, they're a little 01:19:00different than we are. Their humor is definitely different. Our humor is different, let's just say that, um, I had to transition to not cursing as much, too. My lingo and my speech had to change. Had to go through a seminar to get trianed not to say, like, "kill" when someone tells us to do something, something simple like that. You don't realize, like how often you say it and how awkward it is to be in a civilian sector. And someone's just like, "Hey, like Alexis, can you just grab that and you're just like, kill, I mean, I gotcha," you know? So, um, it was definitely a transition and I've been out for a year and a couple months. I'm still adjusting.

SPRAGUE: What have you been up to the last year?

TOVAR: The last year I did a transition from San Diego and moved out here to Milwaukee. Honestly, I took a break to recover my body overall. I did actually 01:20:00go through a divorce, so I had to adjust to moving by myself and, you know, rebuild in my life and find a different path. At this moment, I'm trying to figure out what I wanna go to school for. I want to be able to utilize, you know, the GI Bill. Um, but I think just, I wouldn't say I'm a perfectionist, but I think the Marine Corps, you like set goals and you have to stick with them. So that's like my issue right now is I'm setting that goal. Right now I do transit. I'm a transit driver for disabled, elderly and for elderly as well in general. So, I'm able to give back in a certain way. So it's still a fulfilling job and that's what I'm doing now are move closer to family because in California I was thousands of miles away from my family. Here in Chicago, my family is in Chicago and I do have a few family members out here in Milwaukee. So it was a, it was a bittersweet transition for me. Um, I think the best part is being closer to 01:21:00family. I needed that support system when I transitioned out and while I was there, I was able to see my family maybe once a year, depending on the situation and a couple of services for like family members that passed. So it wasn't always like special occasions. So, now coming back, you know, four years later and I'm able to go grab brunch with my sister is pretty fulfilling. So, now just rebuilding that relationship for my family and figuring out what school process I'm going to do. My career path and at the moment working with only, so.

SPRAGUE: We're coming up on Veterans Day. Do you have any thoughts on Veterans Day or Memorial Day?

TOVAR: I wonder if I should be serious or joking. I excited because, you know, we get the free stuff and also. Oh.

SPRAGUE: That's good. I'm good with that.

TOVAR: But, um, no, I didn't meet a lot of veterans out here. So last year I was able to hang out with a few of them. We went up to UWM and they did a ceremony 01:22:00there, which was pretty awesome because it was my first Veteran's Day as a veteran, so I was able to experience that and, you know, just kind of reminisce on my journey in the military and be grateful to be a veteran. So this year I would see myself probably partaking in the same thing at UWM, just reflecting on my service and also, you know, being around other veterans and thanking them for their service and hearing their story. And usually we do it over meals. So, that's probably what I'm going to do this year.

SPRAGUE: What did it mean for you to be a Marine?

TOVAR: For me, it meant that I can do whatever I want to when I set my mind to it. Um, no matter how great the challenge is. Being a Marine is, it's a hard 01:23:00process. Not everyone makes it. Just because you go to boot camp, you don't mix. There's a lot of people that don't make it out of boot camp. Um. To me, it meant. It means better for my life. And, um. I could do anything. Now that I'm out and I see the process he took to be a marine. I know that whatever I set my mind to, I can do it. And it gave me that motivation to think that way. And whatever challenges that I do encounter in life now, I definitely can overcome regardless of what it is. And I think being a marine definitely changed my mindset and a lot of things and is still a lot of discipline in me in certain areas. So it's something that, that's for you.

SPRAGUE: How do you think your life would be different if you hadn't joined the Corps?

TOVAR: Oh, man. Oh, my mom and my uncle would be very upset. There's that, um. 01:24:00Honestly, uh, it's very possible I'd just be another statistic in, in, in Chicago. I grew up on the South Side, and, um, I feel like I went to a lot of different versions of me growing up and, you know, though I had role models that showed me better, I still wanted to, you know, uh, do things that, you know, the party life and, you know, [inaudible], you know, a kid. So I really don't know where I would have been, but I don't think that it would have been a positive outcome realistically that we was running around with the wrong crowd. And one day I sat back and actually I was at a party and I realized, like, this is not for me. I want something better. Um, and that's what I pushed for. So I don't 01:25:00know where I would've been, but I'm grateful for that decision that I made, and I'm grateful that I was able to earn the title of being a Marine. So.

SPRAGUE: What motivated you to do this interview?

TOVAR: Um, I, I well, you know, when I heard of the campaign, the I'm not Invisible campaign. I mean, it's, it's not really self-explanatory, but you kind of get the concept and um, I ran into some individuals that were, that were, that took, that were in the campaign when it first started. And, um, I went to the, uh, I'm not going to say Premier, what was it? The, I forget the title of it, but, uh, I met two Marine female guard the two veterans, female veterans, and they participated in the first one. And the concept of like, let's not be 01:26:00invisible. And sometimes you do kind of feel like in the military, since it's predominantly men, that the women are overlooked. That we're like, Oh, she's a woman, or she's less capable because she's a woman. You know, sometimes you just simple things about being in office and someone comes in like, "Hey, we need four Marines to come move this and man, man, man, man." You look like, "Hey, I just pressed, like, you know, 135 and this guy can't even get over a hundred. Are you sure that's a good decision?" So, um, there's, like, little, you know, situations like that. I mean, I remember one time there was this woman, she was lifting something and one, this guy, he was actually a civilian contractor. He was just like, "Oh, be careful, you're going to break a nail." And now we looked at him like, "Dude, come on."So just being able to, you know, give a platform to veterans, whatever branch that you are, and hear our story and hear what we go 01:27:00through and, you know, civilians and whomever, just hearing that whatever a man can do, we can do just as well, if not better. And there's very courageous women out here that give their life and contribute to this country and they should be heard. They're our mothers they're our sisters, they're our grandmas, and they sacrifice. So that's what that's the reason that I was interested in it. And uh, as far as my story goes, if there's any city girls out there that, you know, don't really know what they want for their lives and they are stuck in certain points where they think they don't have any hope. Yeah, there's hope. And if you're scared to go to the military because of all the stories that you hear, 01:28:00you could do it and you can do whatever you want in life if you put your mind to it. And that's in any aspect.

SPRAGUE: So anything else you'd like to cover?

TOVAR: Not that I can think of right now, but we touched a lot of good subjects and points.

SPRAGUE: Okay. If that's it, we're going to go ahead and conclude the interview.

TOVAR: Yes sir.

SPRAGUE: Thank you for your service.

TOVAR: Thank you.

SPRAGUE: This concludes the interview.

[Interview Ends]