TAMPA, FL, UNITED STATES --
For many Marines, imagining a nearly 29-year career in the Marine Corps might be a stretch. Spending the majority of that career in the same unit then might seem impossible. While serving in the Corps’ ranks an individual Marine can typically expect to serve a minimum of two years at a duty station before transitioning to another unit. This was not the case for Lt. Col. Alexis Santiago who not only stayed with the same unit starting as an enlisted Marine, but also finished his career as the unit’s battalion commander, serving in nearly every billet in between.
Santiago relinquished command of 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, in a change of command and retirement ceremony here, Dec. 4, 2021. Santiago was assigned to Headquarters and Support Company, 4th Amphibious Assault Battalion, back in 1994 and served the majority of his nearly 29 year career in the Tampa-based unit.
“Unlike previous battalion commanders, I’ve been here for 29 years,” said Santiago.
The Orlando-native completed recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, August 1993, before continuing his training at the Assault Amphibian Crewman’s Course on Camp Pendleton, California. After the course he received orders to Headquarters and Support Company, 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion in Tampa where he reached the rank of staff sergeant. During his 10 years as an enlisted Marine, Santiago held several billets including platoon sergeant and section leader. He also deployed to support the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003. His unit was among the first Marines to set foot in Baghdad.
Santiago made the decision to commission and become a Marine Corps officer in August 2003. A 1995 graduate of the University of Florida, Santiago was heavily influenced by Col. William Blocker who was a captain at the time.
“He talked to me about commissioning for a while and finally convinced me to do it. I don’t think I would be an officer if it hadn't been for him,” said Santiago.
Once Santiago returned to his unit as an officer, he became the company executive officer and rose to be the battalion commander.
“The driving decision was the opportunity to offer more, leadership wise, on the officer side,” said Santiago.
Santiago says it is often challenging to balance his obligations in and out of the Marine Corps Reserve. Santiago works as assistant special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Atlanta Division.
Santiago credits the Marine Corps for his success as a leader. Possessing skill sets from both career fields has helped by providing unique tools he uses in his leadership positions.
“With both jobs having similar views on leadership and being government jobs, they allow me to easily take the skills I learn and apply them to both jobs,” he said.
From enlisted to officer. From crewman to commander. Santiago hopes his many years with the same unit serves as model for his Marines to continue excelling in all they do.
“The only thing I hope Marines take away from my time in the unit, is that you can do anything as long as you work hard.”