McKenzie senior graduates from Army basic training

Published 2:45 pm Tuesday, August 30, 2022

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Andrew Dylan Corley, an 18-year-old senior at McKenzie High School set to graduate in 2023, celebrated a different graduation Aug. 18 at Fort Leonard Wood in Pulaski County, Missouri.

He successfully completed the U.S. Army’s 10-week Basic Combat Training program at the installation and transitioned from a civilian into a soldier.

“The Army is the only branch of the military that has what’s called a split entry,” said Gary Corley, proud father of Dylan. “You can go right after your junior year, during the summer. Then, you go back and finish your senior year of high school.”

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Each week of the gender-integrated training program incorporates new techniques and skills are added to the regiment for them to master.

In weeks 1-2, which is the yellow phase, the recruits learn basic combat training, along with other skills.

Weeks 3-4 are the red phase. In this stage, the recruits learn abilities such as skill development and team-building.

During the white phase of weeks 5-7, instructors add marksmanship training and land navigation.

Finally, during the last three weeks, the group focuses on leadership skills, teamwork, and the famous 10-mile foot march.

So what happens next for newly minted Private Second Class Dylan?

“He will probably be promoted in the next couple of months to private first class,” Gary said.

After graduation from McKenzie, Dylan will be headed to Advanced Individual Training or AIT, in Fort Lee, Virginia, located just west of Petersburg in Prince George County.

It will take Dylan an average of 2-3 months to complete this phase of his training.

Gary said Dylan will study Wheeled Vehicle Mechanics.

“Dylan would like to make this his career,” Gary said. “Since Dylan has joined the Alabama National Guard, when he finishes his training at Fort Lee, he’ll be attached to an avionics group in Hope Hull.”

Dylan will be assigned to Company D, 1st Battalion, 131st Aviation Regiment.

“He’d like to get full-time on one of the Army bases,” his father added. “He’d be full-time with the National Guard, but not considered active duty.”

There is the possibility that Dylan could be deployed after he finishes his training at Fort Lee.

But the Corley parents are no strangers to that reality.

“Our oldest son is in the Marines,” Gary said. “He’s already seen firefights, and his sergeant was killed.”

Gary added, “Our middle son is also in the Army. So, this is our third son to join the military.”

But the Corley family are more than familiar with the armed forces.

“They are a military family,” said Belinda Lee, a longtime friend of the family.

Gary retired from the U.S. Air Force.

“I was in the Air Force,” he said. “My brother was in the Air Force. My maternal grandfather and his six brothers all went to WWII together; and they all came home together.”

Gary’s voice was edged with both pride for his forefathers, and slight apprehension for the future generation that he and his wife are raising.

So many of his family members have answered the call: to duty, to responsibility, to honor.

It comes as no surprise to Gary that Dylan would not only hear that call, but bravely stand up and take his place in military, family, and community history