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Captain Alexandria Switzer, the Supply Officer of 1st Marine Corps district Head Quarters and a San Antonio, Texas native, provides her experiences in finding passion and growth in an unexpected sport, Garden City, New York, November 2, 2023. Capt. Switzer started her passion for rowing at the Naval Academy, which she in turn takes the experiences and learned leadership and applies it to her position as an officer in the Marine Corps. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Heather Atherton)

Photo by Sgt. Heather Atherton

An unlikely passion

29 Nov 2023 | Sgt. Heather Atherton 1st Marine Corps District

Captain Alexandria Switzer, the Supply Officer of 1st Marine Corps district Head Quarters and a San Antonio, Texas native, started her Marine Corps Journey at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2012, where she focused on academics and sports. "The academy seemed like the right fit for what I wanted to focus on," said Switzer, "I wanted to be a part of a team working towards a higher purpose or goal. I liked the structure."

Being a freshman at the Naval Academy, Capt. Switzer was interested in rowing, a sport she had never taken part in before. As a small-statured individual, Switzer was standing in line waiting for information, instructed to be quiet, but her drive to take charge was what caught the eye of a first-class senior. When Switzer started directing other students where to go and what to do, the senior noticed Switzer's natural leadership instinct.

"A first-class senior saw my size, saw me directing people, I guess, and then told me to show up at this place, at this time…!" said Switzer, "And I thought I was in trouble, but I was actually going to a team meeting. I remember the first-class senior stating, "I found us another coxswain!" Which is the small person that's in the boat giving directions and is pronounced: "Coxin".

Switzer happily walked onto the team in 2012, where she started her passion. Her team went on to compete at the NCAAs in 2014 and 2016 and went undefeated in every regatta in 2015.

Her time as a rower at the Naval Academy launched not only a pride of belonging in Captain Switzer but a passion for a sport that would carry her through her Marine Corps Career and provide endless leadership traits, which she could then apply to everyday life as an Officer in the Marine Corps.

Capt. Switzer's first duty station was in San Diego, California, in 2018, where she commuted from Camp Pendleton to Mission Bay Three to four times a week to row with her team in the mornings. Having the passion to wake up at 3am, drive, row, and then drive back to be at work by 7:30am takes structure, reliability, and determination. "That commute actually was pretty rough," said Switzer.

Capt. Switzer's dedication to her team and rowing certainly paid off; she competed and medaled in multiple rowing events during her time in California, including the San Diego Zoo Classic and Head of the Charles.

She contributes many of her leadership traits back to what she learned as a rowing coxswain. "I think rowing is not just a sport. It's one of the best ways to grow and develop as a leader," said Capt. Switzer. "The more you interact with different people, the more you're able to grow as a leader. So I've never shied away from working with new teams from different areas."

Switzer equates the feeling of a team coming together to a famous algebraic phrase, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts."
"It's incredibly powerful when you feel the sum of the parts come together to make a boat go fast. It's like synergy," said Switzer. "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." As one team, you can hear the water run under the boat. And it is the most serene thing you'll ever experience."

As she sets the scene like taking an excerpt from a book or a movie…" you're on the water, it's very early in the morning. So the waters calm, It's very calm in the morning. And so often you see the sunrise. It's an incredible experience," said Switzer. If you've never experienced that, you should try a sport or rowing just to have a moment like that."

After receiving orders to North Carolina in 2021, Switzer returned to her roots and joined the Texas Rowing Center team, which she is still a part of. During her time in North Carolina, Switzer and her team medaled in 10 events, one of which was the Head of the Charles, placing in the top five.

In 2023, Capt. Switzer received orders to First Marine Corps District Headquarters in Garden City, New York, where she is currently stationed. "We're fighting our best fight with recruiting mission. I've been busy doing what I can to support our recruiters on the ground and not able to focus as much on rowing, but I do try to stay engaged with the community as much as I can," said Switzer.

In October, Switzer competed in the Head of the Charles, which she competed with a neighboring club. Switzer said that the row helped her stay engaged with the rowing community. Due to Switzer's busy schedule, she isn't able to devote as much time to being an active coxswain but still volunteers to keep engaged in the sport and community. This year, she made multiple trips to San Diego, the most recent being the spring regatta.

Switzer's future goals are to continue her passion for the sport internationally. "I've competed all over the country, and I hope to compete internationally at the Henley regatta in England one Day, One Day! Haha!" said Switzer.

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