Hometown: Stilwell, Kansas
24 years old
After four years of active duty as a marine, including three years serving in Japan, Ethan Mercer enjoys “getting to be normal” at the University of Dallas.
Mercer is considered a sophomore and is pursuing a degree in history at UD. However, he is 24years old and has spent most of the past five years serving as a MOS 2141 Assault Amphibious Vehicle (AAV) Mechanic at the GSM 3rd Maintenance Battalion in Okinawa.
Mercer graduated from Blue Valley High School in Kansas in 2014 and immediately applied to enter the Marine Corps On Aug. 24, 2014, “the day my life got turned upside down,” Mercer said with a grin, he began his recruit training for the Marine Corps. After its completion, he was assigned to Marine Combat Training (MCT) for about a month. Mercer then trained at the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, just north of San Diego, for the next year.
Mercer reflected on the jarring transition from being a student in high school to working as an AAV Mechanic in Japan saying that “you grow up really quick” in the Marine Corps.
Mercer learned passable Japanese while abroad but says most people in Japan know a little English.
Mercer admires aspects of Japanese culture from his time stationed in Okinawa. The cleanliness is one difference, but Mercer also likes the tranquil atmosphere in public spaces, compared to the “hustling noise” of public spaces in the United States.
The Japanese mechanics who mentored Mercer taught him many valuable lessons including “their desire to master whatever they do.” Mercer explained how Mr. Miyagi mentored him with the other AAV Mechanics. Mr. Miyagi and the other older mechanics, having worked at the craft for decades, would eagerly watch another person complete an unfamiliar task to learn how to improve their own skills.
“He was the best mechanic I’ve ever seen in my life,” Mercer said.
Even though he is currently a marine sergeant in the reserve, Mercer still primarily works as a 2141 AAV Mechanic. Mercer is developing “the ability to troubleshoot.” The main goals of his job are to identify the problem with the vehicle, to locate its source and to address the problem in the most efficient way.
However, Mercer enjoys being a student without a unique rank here at UD.
“To them, I’m just Ethan,” Mercer said. He compared the scenarios of the marines jumping to attention when he walks in as a sergeant with his entrance into a classroom at UD when friends greet him with, “What’s up, Ethan?”
Mercer has to delicately balance his work for the Alliance Geotechnical Group with his life as a UD student commuter and as a marine in the reserve. Mercer’s day typically begins at 5 in the morning, when he heads to work, usually for a type of construction job. From about 9 to 6 every weekday, Mercer is on the UD campus for classes and study.
Once a month, Mercer takes a four-day weekend to work at the reserve as a marine sergeant. On those weekends, Mercer shifts from being a student to a leader whose main job is “to take care of marines,” Mercer said. Mercer usually has to negotiate with his professors about the Friday classes he will miss.
“For the most part, they are very willing to work with me,” Mercer said.
While Mercer does his best to not miss classes, he looks forward to a life in the Marines, not in academics.
“My future is with the Marine Corps,” Mercer said confidently. Even his current status as a student is oriented towards a higher position. “I have to be a student so I can go back to the military as an officer,” Mercer explained.
However, Mercer still enjoys being immersed in the college experience and getting to know students. The students of UD “have all kinds of cool conversations,” Mercer said, which he claimed are not as common in the military. “You desire academic conversation,” Mercer said.After years in the marines, he wanted a classical education similar to the one he had before high school.
Mercer applies the lessons he learned during his active years as a Marine to regular life.
“Laugh about anything that isn’t legitimately going to kill you,” Ethan advised. “Don’t let it stress you out. Relax, breathe.” ”
Mercer offered a Marine’s perspective on difficulties as obstacles that must be overcome. He invited students to “view them as opportunities to push your boundaries [and] what you can handle.”