There is deep connection to the military for Alexander Boettinger. His mother’s father served in World War II and the Korean War, where he was wounded. His father’s father served in the Maryland National Guard, his great-uncle served in World War II and his great-grandfather served in World War I as a Marine.
And while in the fourth grade, Boettinger, a 2016 Mount St. Joseph graduate, took a field trip with his class to the United States Naval Academy, where he immediately took an interest in the Navy. As a Marylander and Catonsville native, going to the Naval Academy would’ve been a dream come true.
Jump ahead a number of years, and Boettinger failed to gain admission to the Annapolis institution. But, that didn’t stop him in his ultimate quest. He is now in the midst of a 13-week naval submarine officer candidacy program that has tested his mental, physical and spiritual fortitude. More so, a Mount St. Joseph teacher says that his former student offers a lesson for others on perseverance.
Boettinger is now learning basic military discipline, procedures and applied leadership, having finished boot camp at the end of September.
His time at Mount St. Joseph solidified his interest in the military. He joined a long line of graduates who have served, including some as naval officers.
“I would say it’s a big part,” Boettinger said of his time in the high school. “I actually wanted to go into [the Navy] before I went to high school, but there were quite a few of my classmates that wanted to go into the Navy as well, and we would always talk about it.
After being rejected at the Naval Academy twice due to not having appointments from his local congressmen, Boettinger went to the University of Tennessee and "that led into me going into OCS [officer candidacy school] and getting me to where I am now.”
Jason Ader, Boettinger’s chemistry teacher at Mount St. Joseph, described the young man as “an intense individual, but not in a bad way.”
While focused on a number of academic goals, Boettinger would use different problem-solving skills in Ader’s chemistry classes to succeed. It didn’t surprise his former teacher that he wanted to pursue a career as a naval officer because he was such a “goal-oriented individual.”
“I am so immensely impressed with Alex because it’s not only a great personal accomplishment, and it doesn’t surprise me whatsoever that he was able to do it, but it sends such a great message to the wider community," Ader said.
“This is especially for students who were looking to get into an [service] academy, or it didn’t work out at first. There are so many ways to achieve your goals, and Alex is proof of that right now.”
Boettinger’s father, Frank, also attended Mount St. Joseph along with each of the males in his family. The younger Boettinger’s growth at the school impressed his father; Alexander graduated with perfect attendance and made the honor roll each year.
Frank Boettinger believes his son’s respect for his teachers at the school had a lot to do with his success. “Alex really loved all of his teachers there. It’s something unusual with a young person, from my perspective, somebody that’s willing to serve," he said. "That’s not a regular thing anymore. He was extremely proud of his St. Joe accomplishments; he really loved Mount St. Joe, as all of us do. He was really determined to do it his way.”
At Tennessee, Boettinger learned about its nuclear propulsion program and majored in nuclear engineering. He was told that he could go to officer candidacy school to learn the basics of the profession. His job eventually will be to power, arm, drive and operate the Navy’s fleet of attack, guided and ballistic missile submarines.
He believes that his time in high school, along with the skills he picked up in college, will prepare him for the next chapter in life. Tennessee taught him the technical knowledge he needs in the field of nuclear engineering, and he learned the basics of the military lifestyle at officer candidacy school.
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“I feel that my time at St. Joe instilled the basic drive of academic excellence and a sense of duty — not particularly to my country, but a sense of duty,” said Boettinger, who, according to his father, plans to make the Navy a lifetime career.