MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Gunnery Sgt. Jeff Chang was called up to active duty just over a year ago and has been busy ever since.
Chang, now 38, was called up at the age of 36 to prepare for a deployment to Iraq where he would be working with the Scout Sniper Platoon. He would make it official graduating from the school here Sept. 28 as one of the oldest Marines to ever make it through the course.
“I knew from the get-go I would be at a physical disadvantage,” Chang said. “I knew I would be competing with Marines that were almost half my age.”
The Fort Wayne, Ind., native decided to see a prior service recruiter and re-enlist to follow the path he felt was necessary. Many years ago Chang got out of the Marine Corps in what he called “the pinnacle of his career” after deploying to Operation Desert Storm and wasn’t sure if he was going to come back.
“I was in the perfect retirement situation when I got out,” Chang stated. “It was like a coach who retires after getting three Super Bowl rings.”
His decision join the Corps again led him to Iraq and then here to be certified as an official Marine Corps Scout Sniper.
Chang arrived here knowing all to well that he was going to be looked at in a different light than the normal Marine going through the course. He knew he was going to struggle physically because of the age difference, but with his prior experience as a sniper on the SWAT team of his local police force, he would fill in the gaps.
“At first I struggled to keep up, but I also expected my previous training and experience to pay off,” Chang stated. “I have some training under my belt, have been to Iraq as a sniper, and at times I was the sole sniper with the police force back in Fort Wayne, Ind.”
The scout sniper program is one of the many schools offered at the School of Infantry. Leadership is a main focus for the advanced courses such as the sniper’s course. Chang came into his scenario with more experience than most of his peers. His time as a police officer and deployment to Iraq with a sniper platoon added to his wealth of knowledge he brought to the table.
“I was the scout sniper platoon sergeant in Iraq, and I was placed in that billet based on the training and experience I had in my civilian career as a police officer,” Chang said. “In the last five years I have been to six different civilian law enforcement sniper schools.”
Chang has seven children and a wife at home who have given him their full support in following his goals in life despite a busy schedule over the past year and a half. Chang has maintained his professional career as well as his personal life. He went from being home with his family everyday to being away for a 10-month deployment and a 10-week school.
“There is no doubt that none of this would have been possible without my family, and by that I mean my wife,” Chang said. “On the one hand this is a personal accomplishment, but the bigger picture is that my wife and my children sacrificed 10 times more than what I did.”
Now that Chang has completed a deployment and school, he has planned to return home to Indiana and continue his job with the Fort Wayne Police Department and discuss with his wife the possible options the Marine Corps may have to offer in the near future.