From Parkour to Hard-Core Athlete: Indiana Guard Soldier Competes on ‘American Ninja Warrior’

SGT Michael Bougher of the Indiana Army National Guard took sixth place in the “American Ninja Warrior” Indianapolis City Finals this summer, earning him a shot at winning $1 million in the National Finals in Las Vegas. (Photo courtesy of “American Ninja Warrior.”)

SGT Michael Bougher of the Indiana Army National Guard took sixth place in the “American Ninja Warrior” Indianapolis City Finals this summer, earning him a shot at winning $1 million in the National Finals in Las Vegas. (Photo courtesy of “American Ninja Warrior.”)

Michael Bougher didn’t exactly set out to conquer grueling obstacle courses on national television when he walked into a local gym three years ago.

The Indiana Army National Guard Sergeant was just looking for a way to stay in shape and have fun at the same time. This led him to a parkour class at the gym – only the class had been cancelled. Instead, he was invited to try out the first obstacle for the gym’s new Ninja Warrior class based on the popular NBC reality competition show, “American Ninja Warrior.”

“I’d always watched the show as a kid. I never thought I’d be a part of it,” he says. “I was really excited to give it a try, and actually ended up making it up the 14-foot warped wall on my very first try.”

That’s all it took to get SGT Bougher hooked. He started helping the gym build more obstacles, which eventually led to testing obstacles for the actual TV show when it built a course in nearby Indianapolis.

Chosen to compete on the show for the first time in 2017, SGT Bougher came back stronger in 2018. He found himself hitting the buzzer with the best time in the “American Ninja Warrior” Indianapolis Qualifiers, earning a spot in the City Finals. There, he finished sixth overall, claiming a spot in the National Finals in Las Vegas, which aired in September – without showing SGT Bougher’s run.

His bid to win the $1 million prize ended with a 15-foot fall into the water from the Double Dipper obstacle. There were various factors at play, but bottom line: “My head wasn’t in it.”

SGT Bougher can be spotted wearing his signature orange T-shirt on “American Ninja Warrior.” He’s hoping to compete on the show again in 2019. (Photo courtesy of “American Ninja Warrior.”)

SGT Bougher can be spotted wearing his signature orange T-shirt on “American Ninja Warrior.” He’s hoping to compete on the show again in 2019. (Photo courtesy of “American Ninja Warrior.”)

“There’s always next year,” says the 23-year-old. “I’ve just got to remember to keep my head a little bit better.”

If he’s invited back for season 11, you can spot him wearing his signature, self-designed orange T-shirt that gives a shout out “to pretty much everything that I do,” which besides the Ninja aspect, includes working as an EMT, playing on a rugby team, and serving as a 35F Intelligence Analyst for the Indiana National Guard, which he joined as a junior in high school.

Looking back at enlisting in the Guard at age 17, “it was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life.”

Because Guard service is a part-time commitment, SGT Bougher has the flexibility to work full-time as an EMT, attend college full-time at Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he majors in criminal justice with a minor in psychology, volunteer at his local fire department, and teach a kids’ Ninja class, where one of his students is competing on “American Ninja Warrior Junior” on the Universal Kids Network.

“I have my life, and I have a family life,” he says. “I can still be a Soldier when I need to be, and that is great.”

Plus, the Guard “comes with a ton of benefits. They pay for my college 100 percent. I get the GI Bill, which helps to pay for books, and I can get as much additional training as I want to. I’ve been to some 400 hours of additional training for my MOS (military occupational specialty) specifically.”

As an Intelligence Analyst, his job is to take information from fellow analysts, infantry, or scouts who are gathering signals, human, or geospatial intelligence, and bring it all together.

“Essentially, I need to know everything that’s going on, be able to make sense of that information, understand why it is happening, and be able to brief it all to the Commander, as well as what we need to do about it.”

SGT Bougher got the chance to use his skills for a seven-month-long, real-life mission in Kosovo without having to leave Indiana.

“I’ve done a bunch of training, but it was really cool to see my work going toward something that’s actually happening.”

There are more military trainings in his future, too. Army Ranger School is on the horizon for next summer, and he’s taking on the Army Master Fitness Trainer course this month.

“I just want to go to every school that they can send me to.”

An Intelligence Analyst with the Guard, SGT Bougher deployed to Japan in late summer as part of the Guard’s Pacific Pathways mission.

An Intelligence Analyst with the Guard, SGT Bougher deployed to Japan in late summer as part of the Guard’s Pacific Pathways mission.

Because of his experience as an analyst, SGT Bougher believes that once he finishes his degree, he has a number of civilian career options, from working for the FBI or another three-letter government agency to working as a contractor overseas. But his end goal is to work in local police, fire, and EMS.

“I like helping the community around me, and I feel good about doing those jobs,” he says.

The desire to help his community is right in line with his service in the Guard, where a Soldier’s primary base of operation is in his or her own State.

SGT Bougher’s advice for anyone considering joining the Guard is to talk to a recruiter who will hopefully talk about the good aspects of service, but not shy away from anything negative.

“You’re going to miss birthdays, you’re going to miss holidays because you’re going to be at a training for this and that, but it’s all for the better of the country and the State. You’re going to come out of it a better person.”

So, if you are interested in a part-time job where you can serve your community and your country, and still have time to pursue a civilian career or other interests, our job board is a great place to start doing some research. Career fields include intelligence, engineering, mechanics and maintenance, military police, infantry, and more. Then, contact your local recruiter to learn more.

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State Spotlight: North Carolina

Right Place, Right Time, Right Training

MORGANTON, N.C. – Within minutes of a single-engine plane crash, North Carolina Army National Guard SGT Charles Roper was pulling the pilot from the burning cockpit.

The Sergeant was on his way to pick his children up from school on Feb. 6 at about 4:30 p.m. when he noticed a plane flying very low, almost at treetop level.

“The plane took a nosedive like it was doing a crazy stunt. It never came back up.”

SGT Roper saw the plane crash, and immediately put his truck into four-wheel drive, driving through ditches and farmland to get to the crash site.

“When I pulled up, I saw the plane, and it was on fire with plane parts in trees, the propeller in the field, and the pilot was in the plane, just lying there,” he said. “It all happened so fast, I didn’t even have time to call 911. I rushed out of my vehicle and ran to the burning plane.”

SGT Roper, a full-time mechanic at the North Carolina National Guard’s Lenoir Field Maintenance Shop # 2 and a 31B Military Police Officer in the 210th Military Police Company, said he yelled at the pilot to get out of the plane, but the pilot was motionless.

“Fire was all around him, and he was strapped in with the same type of seatbelt harness we use in the Guard,” he said. “I reached in and pulled the quick release, then I pulled him out of the plane. All I could think of was it exploding, so I (dragged) him away from the plane. He was moaning and grunting, and I told him to hang on.”

SGT Roper is no stranger to helping rescue people in dangerous situations. He was a Morganton public safety officer for six years and responded to many car wrecks, house fires, and other adrenalin-pumping emergencies. 

SGT Charles Roper

SGT Charles Roper

 

Others came to assist SGT Roper and helped him pull the pilot farther away from the burning wreckage and on to the back of a pickup truck.

The pilot was safe, but SGT Roper’s assistance was now needed by the first public safety officer to reach the crash site.

“Kim Davis, a Morganton public safety officer, arrived with a fire truck, and asked me to help pull the hose close to the plane while she turned the water on,” said SGT Roper. “I manned the hose and helped get the fire under control. Soon after that, I could hear more EMS pulling up to the scene.”

SGT Roper said that once the firefighters took the hose from him it was the first time he could take a breath and relax. He noticed his arms and jeans were bloody.

“I got with an EMS worker, grabbed a lot of baby wipes, and cleaned off my arms as well as I could,” he said. “I told EMS I was leaving. I didn’t want to stick around. I was just glad I could play the part of a guardian angel.”

SGT Roper got into his vehicle and continued on his way to pick up his children before local news made it to the crash site.

According to local authorities, the pilot, who was taken to a Charlotte hospital, received lacerations to the face and was “bruised and banged up,” but expected to recover fully.

SGT Roper’s training as a member of the National Guard and as a civilian first responder allowed him to act quickly and decisively. His actions are the embodiment of Citizen-Soldiers living and serving in the communities they have sworn to protect.

So, if you have the desire to protect your fellow citizens and your Nation, find out more about joining the Army National Guard. Most Guard members serve part-time, allowing them the flexibility to earn a degree or certification using the Guard’s education benefits. The Guard also trains Soldiers for careers in more than 150 fields. Visit our job board to explore careers and contact a recruiter for more information.

From an original article by LTC Matthew Devivo, North Carolina National Guard, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in February 2017.

 

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High Flying Career Starts with the Need for an Education

SGT Tom Harrington, a crew chief with B Co., 2-147th Assault Helicopter Battalion, waves to B Co. (Battlehard) and D Co. (Wolfpack), 3-187th Infantry Regiment, Soldiers to approach the UH-60 Blackhawk to kick-off an air assault exercise at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, January 7, 2015. (Minnesota Army National Guard photo by SPC Jess Nemec/Released)"

SGT Tom Harrington, a crew chief with B Co., 2-147th Assault Helicopter Battalion, waves to B Co. (Battlehard) and D Co. (Wolfpack), 3-187th Infantry Regiment, Soldiers to approach the UH-60 Black Hawk to kick-off an air assault exercise at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, January 7, 2015. (Minnesota Army National Guard photo by SPC Jess Nemec/Released)"

Working his way through college wasn’t working out so great for Tom Harrington as the U.S. economy started to crash in 2008.

The Lexington, Ky., native needed a better way to pay for school. He had considered other branches of the Armed Services, but found that joining the Army National Guard offered several advantages. He could serve part-time near the college he was going to attend, the Guard had openings available in the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) he wanted to pursue, plus this particular MOS made him eligible for the GI Bill Kicker, which meant a little extra money could be put toward earning his degree in aerospace management.

Now a sergeant with the Kentucky National Guard, Harrington is a 15T UH-60 Utility Helicopter Repairer. The UH-60 is better known as the Black Hawk, which is the Army’s most versatile helicopter. It is used in combat situations, search and rescue operations, firefighting, and transportation of people and supplies.

Sgt Tom Harrington keeps his eyes on a wildfire to release water from a Bambi bucket attached to a UH-60 Blackhawk in southeastern Kentucky, Nov. 5, 2016. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Robert Brumfield)

SGT Tom Harrington keeps his eyes on a wildfire to release water from a Bambi bucket attached to a UH-60 Black Hawk in southeastern Kentucky, Nov. 5, 2016. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Robert Brumfield)

Not only does SGT Harrington repair and maintain the helicopters, he gets to fly on them as well.

“Black Hawks also give you the option, as a 15T to fly and become a crew chief, and that’s what I wanted to do,” he explains.

As a crew chief, SGT Harrington takes care of anything that is transported by the helicopter, from passengers to freight. During a wildfire in his State in November, that meant filling the “Bambi buckets” that attach to the helicopters with water and dousing hot spots. SGT Harrington also documented his Unit’s response to the fires with his camera. He has an additional duty in the Guard to serve as Unit Public Affairs Historian.

SGT Harrington appreciates the variety his MOS affords: “Everything’s different every day, and I’ve been able to do a lot of different things.”

A self-described “proverbial car guy and gear head,” there’s always something to fix in his role as a mechanic. As a crew chief, he’s been a part of counterdrug missions and, during the recent fires in Kentucky, “doing whatever we could to save homes and property. That was a really fulfilling mission.”

Another assignment SGT Harrington is proud of was a deployment to Kosovo in 2009 and 2010. This UN peacekeeping mission gave him the chance to see how everything he learned in AIT (Advanced Individual Training) fit into the big picture in a deployment. His duties included troop transport, VIP operations, and cargo hauls.

“It was a cool cultural experience. I didn’t think at 22, I’d be sitting in Kosovo, former Yugoslavia, working with Germans, Italians, Croatians, Slovenians, Swedish, just to name a few.”

As he looks back on his decision to join the Guard at age 20, he sees how his experiences contributed to his personal growth.

“Going to Basic [Training], going to AIT, coming back, that all gave me a different perspective. Getting deployed and learning how to work with so many different people, so many different cultures, that definitely made me grow as a person.”

His Guard experience also helped him with his full-time career as a civilian contractor who works as a crew chief on Black Hawks for the Federal Government.

“The Guard set me up with a fantastic opportunity for civilian employment and it all, pretty much, directly translates.”

In fact, he credits the Guard for giving him a leg up on becoming eligible to take the test for an Airframe and Powerplant license through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that will allow him to advance in his civilian job.

“There would have been no way I could have had the opportunity to go take the test and do it without the Guard.”

So, if you’re interested in finding out how the Guard can help you with a career, visit our job board, which lists vacancies that can be searched by MOS, job family, keyword or location, or contact a recruiter today who can explain the Guard’s benefits like money for college and low-cost health insurance.

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