Rochelle native Patterson in 2nd contract with U.S. Navy, has served since 2016
2nd-generation service member: ‘We're a military family’
GULFPORT, Miss. — As Veterans Day approaches, Rochelle native and Rochelle Township High School Class of 2016 graduate Alex Patterson is currently on his second contract with the United States Navy after joining out of high school.
Patterson’s first contract with the Navy saw him stationed on the USS Carl Vinson out of San Diego, which had him on three deployments in eight different countries. He is now stationed at the Navy Seabees Command in Gulfport, Mississippi and works as a logistics analyst, ordering and tracking materials throughout the world. He’s in his seventh year with the Navy and his current contract will take him to nine years.
Patterson comes from a military family. His father, Malcolm, was in the Army as a helicopter pilot for 22 years, including in Iraq from 2006-2008. His great grandfather was a mid-air refueler for the Air Force.
“My dad always told me to join either the Navy or the Air Force because of the quality of life of those branches,” Patterson said. “He said he'd be supportive if I wanted to make it my career. It's a stable job. You just take it day by day. It's like any other job with good days and bad days. I love wearing the uniform every day. I wear it with pride and I'm proud of where I am in life and who I do life with. I love the military and supporting the military and I'm very appreciative of what it's done for me and the opportunities I've been given."
Patterson said he’s considering serving in the military for 20 years. He’s currently attending school online for supply chain management and is looking at getting that degree and staying enlisted and moving to the officer side as a supply officer.
While he doesn’t fly for the military, Patterson has a love of flying that was instilled in him by his father and recently obtained his pilot’s license in the civilian world. He’s also considering utilizing that skill in the military for the Navy or another military branch as a fixed or rotary-wing pilot.
“I've been around aviation my entire life,” Patterson said. “I knew growing up that I always wanted to fly. It never felt like the right time to do it. My dad always supported me. He knew that I was interested in aviation. I've loved flying and it's something I've always wanted to do. Last October I did my first flight and got my pilot's license in May of this year. I'm working towards the next license I need for my flying. For me, flying is like an escape from reality. When you're flying, the only thing that matters in that moment is what's going on in the airplane and around you. All of your life problems and stressors are stuck on the ground. I love it.”
Working full-time for the Navy, taking online college classes and working on his pilot licensing in his spare time has made for a hectic schedule for Patterson, but he’s always looking towards bettering his future.
“If you care about something, you'll put forth the effort,” Patterson said. “I care about flying and my education and my job. I don't get a lot of sleep. I'm always studying for something, whether it's flying, school or the military. There's three different routes I can go. I'm making sure all my doors are open no matter what at all times."
Patterson has also considered the idea of flying in the civilian world as an airline pilot or having his own plane. His family has been supportive of him and has made it clear that he’ll have their backing no matter what he chooses.
Veterans Day to Patterson is a time for him to reflect and appreciate the service members that have come before him. That includes his father.
“When he was deployed, he had friends that didn't come back,” Patterson said. “I didn't realize when I was younger how serious it was that he was deployed. That time in Iraq from 2006-2008 was the worst time in the Iraq War. I'm appreciative. Every time I see other people with military hats or clothes, I always strike up a conversation. Because I'm very appreciative of what the military has done for me and I appreciate other people that have gone before me to sacrifice their time and potentially more. It's a time for me to reflect on and appreciate where we're at as a country and the fact that freedom isn't free. Someone has to sacrifice for it."