Enlisted in Army National Guard
Bozeman, MontanaWhen I graduated high school, I was already accepted at Montana State University, and was wondering how I was going to pay for college. I thought of enlisting in any of the active services, but then realized I could get the best of both worlds - serving in the Armed Services while still attending college, so I enlisted in the Montana Army National Guard. Within less than a month, I was on my way to Basic Training at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina.
Finished ROTC and Commissioned as a Reserve Officer in the Montana Army National Guard
Bozeman, MontanaI enlisted as a Combat Medic, but I was with a Cavalry Regiment HQ that didn't go to the field. I was Split Option, attending Basic in 1986 and AIT the next summer, but all we did back home during drill was common task training, inventorying our medical supplies, ordering more supplies, and not much else. At Montana State University, I started taking ROTC classes as an elective and finally contracted with ROTC in January 1988, and after serving as a Simultaneous Membership Program Cadet (spending my drill weekends with various staff Officers) I was commissioned as part of the Early Commissioning Program (back then, if we wanted Guaranteed Reserve Forces Duty, we could get commissioned before we completed our Bachelor's Degree). The major highlight of my ROTC time was attending the Basic Parachutist Course (a.k.a. Airborne) at Ft. Benning, Georgia. With my three weeks of Airborne training, as well as participation in the ROTC Ranger Challenge program, I decided to branch Infantry.
Finished one part of my Military career, and started another
United StatesI started my career as an Army National Guard Lieutenant as Assistant S-3 - Battalion Chemical Officer with 1/163rd Infantry in Billings, Montana. In 1992, after I finished the four-month long Infantry Officers Basic Course, I was assigned as a Platoon Leader with Detachment 1, Company D, 1/163rd Infantry in Chinook, MT. Soon after I was promoted to 1st Lieutenant, I became the Detachment Commander, commanding two platoons of Mechanized Infantry in Chinook, which was located 100 miles from our parent unit in Lewistown. Our unit eventually reorganized from Infantry to Field Artillery, replacing our M113A3s with howitzers. Then I received news that changed my career path - I was still shy of the time-in-grade needed to get promoted to Captain before I would need a Bachelors Degree to do so. And I had 18 months to finish my degree before I'd have to resign my commission. Then I was assigned as a Communications Platoon Leader at the Battalion HQ. Since I knew I wouldn't finish my degree in the time allowed, I resigned my commission in the Spring of 1997, and moved to Minnesota soon afterward. Later that summer, I was at a picnic with my dad's car club at a park in the North Metro of the Twin Cities, and there was a Guard unit having their summer picnic at the pavilion next to ours. Missing that aspect of the National Guard, I called a recruiter, and enlisted as a Counter-Intelligence Agent. Due to a paperwork snafu, Intelligence Agent wasn't feasible, so I became an Intelligence Analyst, serving in that role in the 634th Military Intelligence Battalion and later as the S-2 Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge in the 34th Aviation Brigade.
United StatesThe day that changed the career of anyone in the Military at the time. Most notable about this is I remember when I attended Annual Training earlier that summer, I had a troop whose life circumstances had changed, and due to other commitments like his civilian job, family responsibilities, etc., the Guard was becoming a burden. We told him that rather than getting all the way out, he should go into the Individual Ready Reserve. It was just like being a civilian, and nobody had been called up from the IRR since Vietnam. So that's what he did, then a couple months later, 9/11 happened.
2006-2007 Deployment to Afghanistan
AfghanistanI had known since 9/11 and the later invasion of Iraq that it wasn't a matter of if, but when, I would get deployed. In 2005, due to health issues with my wife, I went into the Inactive National Guard, which put my Guard life on hold for 11 months. After my time in ING, I came back in time to go on a 3-week Annual Training period to Fort Polk, Louisiana, in support of the 1/34th. After spending time with one of my buddies who I served with in the 634th MI Battalion, I was seriously contemplating that rather than wait for the call, I'd just volunteer to go with them to Iraq. But my wife also had a vote, and when I got home from that AT, she said we'd discuss it later. A few weeks after I was back home, my Readiness NCO called me, and said I was an alternative to join the 240th Engineer Group, Maine Army National Guard, in Basra, Afghanistan. I asked what it would take to make me the primary instead of the alternative, and after a brief discussion with the wife, I went through the readiness exercise at Camp Ripley, and by the beginning of May, 2006, I was boots on the ground in Afghanistan. Since I was remembering when I first arrived in Afghanistan 10 years later, here's my facebook post from 4 May 2016 - My first time out of the Continental United States, aside from pre-9/11 trips to Canada and Baja, Mexico, but alas, it was as an individual augmentee supporting the 240th Engineer Group/CTF Chamberlain, Maine Army National Guard. First, after a puddle-jumper flight from Columbus, GA to Atlanta, I got moved to first class from Atlanta to Baltimore/Washington International (thank you, to whomever gave up their seats and moved to coach so some soldiers can enjoy the flight), and at BWI, I had to find a piece of floor to sleep on while awaiting our overseas charter the next morning. Then I got to see NYC from the air at night, then London from the air the next day, before we landed in Leipzig, where we were finally allowed to leave the plane and sit in another terminal for a while (BTW, German keyboards have X and Z mixed up) before going on to Ankara, and then onward to Manas Airbase in the former Soviet of Union Republic of Kyrgyzstan. When I deplaned, they said I'd probably be stuck there for up to a week, but to go to Space-A anyhow, where, lo and behold, they had room for one individual on the next flight (lucky me!). And after flying at night in a C-130 over the so-called foothills of the Himalayas, I was finally boots-on-the-ground in Afghanistan, ready for 11 months that would shape the rest of my life. Within less than a day, I was already a member of the 240th "family," and even though I haven't seen most of those people since our Freedom Salute in July, 2007, I still consider them the best friends I've ever had. Bayonets, Forward!