Columbia County sergeant finds niche in Army
Anthony “AJ” Boswell comes from a family with a rich history in the military.
“My grandpa was in the Marine Corps, from Korea through Vietnam, and retired after 25 years in the Marine Corps,” said Boswell, who lives in St. Helens and is currently a sergeant with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office. “I had an uncle who served in the Air Force during Vietnam times.”
Despite his family service history, Boswell said that initially, he had no intentions of joining the military.
“When I was about 19, I kind of had no direction in mind as to where I was going or what I wanted to do,” said Boswell. “I decided one day that I was going to go talk with a recruiter.”
After inquiring about serving in the Marines, the Air Force, or the Navy, Boswell ultimately settled for the Army.
“The irony of it all is I went to the Marine Corps first, given that I grew up with my grandpa being a Marine,” he said. “I didn’t like what they had to pitch and went to the Air Force. To be quite frank, the Air Force very nicely told me I wasn’t smart enough.”
Born and reared in Southern California, Boswell said that in the Navy, the only thing available was to serve as an onboard submarine technician.
“I said, ‘That sounds terrible, and I don’t want to be trapped underwater,’” Boswell said.
So, instead, Boswell joined the Army.
After basic training in the United States, Boswell was deployed to Iraq, north of Baghdad.
Describing his role overseas, Boswell said, “A lot of it was kind of on-the-fly movement. We did everything from convoy escorts, which is acting as a guard unit for supply convoys going to different areas across the country. When they would come to our region, we would escort them to our region and hand them off to the next grouping, or area, that they were going to, that was covered.”
Boswell’s unit conducted raids in Iraq in 2006 and 2007.
“We would get intel on IED (improvised explosive device) factories and weapon caches,” he said. “We would set up ambushes along a certain route that was one of the more heavily IED areas. … Essentially, our job was to make sure that nobody planted IEDs.”
Serving in theaters such as Iraq, each day can be different for members of the Army.
“Honestly, it was ebb and flow,” Boswell said. “There were days where nothing happened, and there were days where you didn’t think it was going to stop.”
In the Army, especially in war, you get to know your fellow service members.
“You are working with these guys nonstop,” Boswell said. “You’re around them all the time … you cry together. You bleed together. You laugh together. Everything you do, you’re together because you have nowhere to go but with each other.”
Boswell added, “You honestly start to learn more and know more about the people you’re around than, quite frankly, you really want to, sometimes.”
Iraq was Boswell’s first tour of duty overseas, but it wasn’t his last. He was deployed to Afghanistan for 12 months from 2011 to 2012, and even after leaving active service to join the Oregon National Guard in 2016, he was deployed again to Somalia.
He continues to serve as a Guardsman, holding the rank of sergeant first class.
Boswell has some practical advice for young men and women interested in joining the military.
“Do your research before you join,” he said. “Make sure what you’re choosing is what you want to do. Understand that they need you more than you need them. When you go in, you have terms of negotiation.”