When Captain Jeremy Wedlake ’99 joined the Army, he expected to travel. His latest destination is Iraq, which reminds him a little of his home in Turlock, Calif. “Between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, Iraq is green and fertile, a lot like Central California,” he says. “But it’s hotter: In August we saw a high of 147 degrees.”
Jeremy transferred to Westmont as a sophomore, thanks to an Army ROTC scholarship. In addition to taking classes at Westmont, he reported to UC Santa Barbara every morning at 6 a.m. for physical training and returned there in the afternoon for military science classes. He received his commission as a second lieutenant when he graduated.
“I don’t plan on getting out of the Army,” he says. “I love it. I enjoy the excitement, the travel. In the last four years, I have visited about 10 different countries. I was stationed in Korea during my first year in the service.”
His jobs in Iraq have varied. A member of the 51st Signal Battalion (Airborne), he worked as the personnel officer before becoming an assistant operations officer. His battalion sets up voice (phones) and data (non-secure and secure Internet) networks. Information is a critical part of the military operation, and Jeremy has faced considerable challenges in getting systems installed. “We trouble-shoot stuff when it breaks and try to make the call processing and data processing faster,” he says.
According to Jeremy, morale among the soldiers in Iraq has its ups and downs. “We all understand we have a job to do and that we volunteered to join the military. Yes, there are people who hate us over here, but there are people who hate us in Santa Barbara, too. It’s my job, and I will do it to the best of my ability.”
Jeremy experienced a lot of support for the troops when he came home at Christmas. “I received nothing but love from people,” he says. “Someone gave up a seat for me so that I could get home five hours earlier. Numerous people offered to buy me meals or coffee just because I was in the Army and serving in Iraq. It was nice to feel needed and wanted.”
As an Army officer, Jeremy doesn’t get involved in political discussions about Iraq. When he was home, the media coverage of the conflict frustrated him. “Journalists don’t wait until the truth comes out, they report what they think is going on and not what they know. Unfortunately, we have become what I call the ‘microwave generation.’ We want it now and fast, and who cares if it is right. In my opinion, no one should be subjected to the destruction and cruelty of a man and his family as the Iraqi people were. They don’t show that part on TV.”
Jeremy appreciates the leadership experience he gained as a member of student government at Westmont. “I had the opportunity to serve with faculty and staff on committees and talk with them personally,” he says. “I met with Jane Higa weekly with other students to discuss what was important to us.” He credits Higa, Professor David Neu and Coach Russell Smelley with making an impact on his life.
Today he draws on his Westmont experience as well as his military training in his challenging and dangerous work. “I’m glad to be doing something to help,” he says.