The 23-year-old not only got engaged, but also saw two years’ worth of work come to fruition Dec. 1, when he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
The newly minted officer is a Ben Lomond native, a 2006 graduate of San Lorenzo Valley High School and a 2010 graduate of University of California, Santa Cruz, where he studied political science.
For Chase, joining the military was an idea he had been entertaining since high school, but it wasn’t until he was an intern for the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, D.C., that it picked up steam.
He became acquainted with several former military officers and was impressed by both their professionalism and the number of doors opened by a career as an officer.
“I just always felt compelled to do some sort of service, and the military appealed to me more so than a lot of the alternatives,” Chase said.
“He’s following in the tradition,” said Chase’s grandmother, Rose Marie Griffin, referring to the young man’s great-grandfather and great-uncle, who served in the first and second world wars, respectively.
Chase also joins his brother, a senior noncommissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force in Tokyo, and a cousin serving as a fighter pilot in the Navy.
When he graduated from UCSC, he immediately began the paperwork to enter the Army’s Officer Candidate School.
“I wanted to have a little more responsibility right off the bat,” he said. “I’d always wanted to go the officer route, which requires that you have a bachelor’s degree, so that I would enter in more of a leadership role.”
After completing a “mountain of paperwork,” Chase shipped out to Fort Benning, Ga., for basic training in June.
Fort Benning played host to both basic training and Officer Candidate School, each taking roughly three months.
Once he finished with basic training, Chase, along with a handful of fellow candidates, moved on to the Army’s 12-week officer-training program.
“I literally went down the street the day I graduated basic training to OCS,” Chase said. “They’re only a couple miles apart.”
The course, which is broken up into the “basic” phase and the “senior” phase, is a physically intensive training regimen, Chase said, with physical fitness requirements becoming more stringent for officer candidates as the Army scales down following the end of operations in Iraq.
“It’s pretty rigorous,” he said. “You’re being evaluated every moment of every day.”
Candidates who faltered in any subject were pulled out and made to start the entire course over, Chase said. One unlucky candidate was told he had to start over less than a week before he was set to graduate, he recalled.
The basic phase consisted of a “complete lockdown” — no television, no phones, no Internet — and classroom study for eight or nine hours per day, as candidates learned tactics, leadership skills and such useful things, such as how to call for an artillery strike.
During the senior phase, candidates were allowed to select which branch of the Army to specialize in, based on their classroom ranking.
“(Being in the) top quarter of class, I had pretty much a free hand in terms of what I wanted,” said Chase, who opted to join the Corps of Engineers.
After that, he said, it was three weeks in the field doing training exercises, often with real explosions and gunfire.
Of course, explosions will be part of Chase’s job description now.
“What I’m likely to be is a combat engineer — which is similar in many respects to infantry,” he said. “We do some building, like bridging and things like that, but also a lot of demolitions.”
He received his commission Dec. 1 along with 92 of his classmates, out of 114.
His next move is to attend the basic officer leadership course at the Army’s engineering school at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. He’s set to graduate in late May, at which point he’ll find out where he’ll be stationed.
Ideally, he said, he’d like to be stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington state, where his fiancée, Kim Walsh, a UCSC graduate and certified public accountant, could find a job in her field.
In the long term, Chase said, his goal is to serve his three-year commitment before attending law school, in hopes of joining the military’s Judge Advocate General Corps.
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