– A service member is often born with a strong desire to help others. Whether
it’s coaching a child’s sports team, cleaning up the neighborhood, or any
number of other community activities, public service is frequently a common
trait of those serving in the military, specifically the Army National Guard.
in the South Bay community of Olympia, Washington, SFC Van Kirk lived down the
street from the South Bay Fire Department.
wanted to be a volunteer firefighter for a while, giving back to the community
I grew up in,” he recalls. “Being a full-time active Guard member, I wasn’t
sure if I would have that chance.”
He got his
chance three years ago when his Unit switched from a five-day workweek to a
four-day, 10-hour-a-day schedule.
schedule switch gave me the opportunity to go for it, and the leadership with
the Civil Support Team supported it.”
firefighter and emergency medical technician (EMT) takes time and requires the
individual to volunteer a certain number of hours to earn required
certifications. However, being a full-time member of the 10th Civil Support
Team and responding at a moment’s notice to support local law enforcement and
first responders also requires a lot of time and energy.
training for both firefighting and EMT is time-consuming,” says SFC Van Kirk. “My
command supported everything about me volunteering with South Bay.”
with South Bay hasn’t hindered SFC Van Kirk’s work at the CST.
volunteers 40-50 hours a month with the fire department,” says CST First
Sergeant (1SG) Paul Gautreaux. “He never misses a day of work with us though.
He is even there on Mondays getting our folks and gear ready for the week
Fourth of July, SFC Van Kirk put his training, both with the fire department
and the CST, to use during a critical situation. That morning, he and other
members of the South Bay team responded to a call involving a driver missing a
turn and hitting two small children who were playing on the shoreline.
“We got to
the scene first and the two children were injured pretty bad, so we immediately
called for additional EMTs, contacted the hospitals, and got everything
organized quickly,” he explains, adding the two children were rushed to a local
hospital at the time, and “are doing great today.”
SFC Van Kirk
received praise from his station leadership for his work.
our only volunteer who stayed on for the additional shift,” says John Clemons, medical
service officer with the South Bay Fire Department. “He organized the sub-units
to the incident and helped save the lives of two little ones. He is a real
asset to our station.”
dedicated Soldier is also an asset to the CST. “He [SFC Van Kirk] is like so
many in the organization,” says Major (MAJ) Wes Watson, commander of the CST. “They
are the quiet professionals, volunteering their own time to help others. It’s
just the spirit of the National Guard.”
LINCOLN, Neb. – Every Soldier in the Army National Guard has a story: the reasons why they joined the
military, picked their particular military occupational specialty (MOS), or
serve in their military Unit of choice.
For two Soldiers serving in the Nebraska
Army National Guard’s Troop B, 1-134th Cavalry, their stories are notably
different than those around them. That’s because Sergeant (SGT) Nicole Havlovic
and SGT Danielle Martin are two of the very few women serving in the Nebraska Cavalry
Squadron, and are two of only a few women in the nation who have successfully
graduated from the Army’s toughest combat arms MOS school, earning themselves
the title of Cavalry Scout.
It was that desire for something new
that drove her to join the Nebraska Army Guard Cavalry Squadron.
“I felt like it would be a perfect
fit. I’m pretty outdoorsy and this – being out in the field – doesn’t bother me
SGT Danielle Martin’s route to becoming
a Cavalry scout was not a direct one, either.
“I’ve always wanted to go into combat
arms,” she says. “It was a year before joining the military that I knew combat
arms was what I wanted to do. However, I was still junior-enlisted, so I really
couldn’t do much about it.”
The last restrictions against women
serving in combat roles were lifted in 2013. However, Army regulations
specified that Units were first required to have two female Cavalry scouts in
leadership positions before other female Soldiers would be allowed to join
their ranks. This made integrating junior-ranking women into the Units all that
much more difficult.
Both Sergeants attended Cavalry scout
reclassification school – an Army school designed to train Soldiers from other
MOS’ in the skills needed to become operational Cavalry scouts. SGT Martin
attended the November reclassification course in Boise, Id. After completing
the course, she reported to the Nebraska-based Troop B this past January.
SGT Martin says the reception she
received from her new Unit made her realize they respected her newly-earned
skills. She says it wasn’t about changing who anyone was, but rather, having
mutual respect between Soldiers.
“They don’t treat me any differently
just because I’m female. I’m one of the guys and I think it needs to be that way.
I’m not coming in here to change them, I’m coming in here because I know I can
physically and mentally handle it, and I want to do the job.”
SGT Havlovic attended the Cavalry Scout
Transition Course in Smyrna, Tenn., and reported to Troop B in April 2019. She too
says her fellow Soldiers don’t treat her differently than any other member of
“I expect them to believe that they
can trust me with the mission and what we have to do,” she says. “Everyone has
been welcoming to me.”
With the two women completing their
transition courses, Nebraska National Guard’s 1-134th Cavalry Squadron became
the ninth Army National Guard Unit, fourth Cavalry Troop, and second Infantry
Brigade Combat Team Cavalry Troop to be opened for junior enlisted female Cavalry
First Sergeant (1SG) Andrew Filips,
Troop B’s senior enlisted Soldier, has spent 15 years in the Squadron. He says
the change of policy wasn’t an issue.
“What it comes down to is that we’re a
Combat Arms Unit and there’s only one standard. You either make the cut, or
there are other Units for you to go to.”
First Sergeant (1SG) Christopher
Marcello of Grand Island’s Troop A, 1-134th Cavalry Squadron, is a 22-year
veteran of the Squadron. He has also been a member of the Grand Island Police
Department for six years. He echoes 1SG Filips’ sentiments.
“I work with women every day as a
police officer and that’s a tough job. Combat arms isn’t any different. You
have to have the right fit. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman. You
have to be the right kind of person to be a scout.”
The Nebraska Army National Guard’s
1-134th Cavalry Squadron is part of the larger 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team,
which is headquartered in Arkansas. The Brigade is responsible for providing
training and readiness oversight of its subordinate Units. According to Command
Sergeant Major (CSM) Gregory White, 39th IBCT senior enlisted leader, the Brigade
finds the right Soldiers for the job by looking at those who want to do it,
instead of looking at who can physically do it.
CSM White also says that women who
hold a combat arms MOS are the best representatives to recruit other women into
the field. He spoke with SGT Martin during a visit to Troop B’s recent annual
training in the Republic of Korea. They both agreed the focus should be on
reaching out to women who want the challenge of serving in a combat arms
position, and once they do, give them the tools they need to become advocates.
“Having her [SGT Martin] talk to them
is going to be so much better than a guy who has been in for 30 years,” he says.
“A 50-year-old man talking to these young women will not reach them the same
1SG Filips says the physical demands
are not the only aspect of combat arms that new recruits need to consider. The
relatively demanding training pace also makes Combat Arms Units different.
Troop B regularly trains in the field and spends most drill weekends training
throughout the night. That is often one of the more significant reasons why
some Soldiers eventually choose to transfer into the squadron.
“If you want to come into the Guard
and feel like this is what I want to do; (that) I want to … be awesome and be
the baddest dudes and wear the cool hats and do all that, then yes go for it,”
says 1SG Filips. “But if you are ‘I want to try this because it would be neat,’
there’s other places to be neat. Come here because this is what you always
wanted to do in life. You have to want it.”
1SG Marcello seconds these comments,
adding that Troop A is willing to let Soldiers – male or female – try being a Cavalry
scout for their drill weekend.
“We’re more than happy to let people
come in, try it out and if it doesn’t work for you, we get it,” he says. “It has
nothing to do with gender or sex; it has to do with whether or not you can do
Both SGT Havlovic and SGT Martin say
they realize they are now mentors and role models for those around them and encourage
other Soldiers to give it a try.
“It’s definitely something I would sit
down, explain to them, and educate them on,” says SGT Havlovic, who now works
for the State recruiting office.
“It’s not for everybody, it really isn’t.
I don’t believe that just because combat arms has been opened up to females
means that all females belong here – but if you can do it, then do it.”
If you’ve got what it takes to stand
alongside some of the strongest Soldiers, consider joining the Army National
Guard. By becoming a Soldier in the Guard, you’ll be able to serve part-time in your home State, and receive top-notch
training in the career field of your choice. Browse the job
board for opportunities in more than 130
specialties, including ground forces, aviation,
Contact a recruiter to learn how you can serve today!
From an original
article by SSG Herschel Talley, Nebraska National Guard, which appeared in the
news section of NationalGuard.mil in September 2019.
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Tiara Puro was 17 when her father handed her a recruiting brochure for the Army National Guard. She remembers a feeling of excitement as she flipped through the pamphlet, especially when she read about the education benefits. She had been trying to figure out a way to pay for college, and the Utah Army National Guard was offering the equivalent of a full-ride scholarship for six years of service.
“When I enlisted, it was peacetime,”
Tiara says. “There was nothing going on, and it was actually why I felt so
comfortable agreeing to enlist. What’s six years of an enlistment during
peacetime, especially if I get a college degree out of it?”
Tiara enlisted in 1999 as a 27D paralegal specialist. Once a month, she drove to the armory in Vernal to train until she finished high school. A week after graduating, she shipped to Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, S.C.
Tiara is the oldest of five sisters.
Her four younger sisters are Tambra, Tayva, and twins, Taryn and Ty’lene. They
all grew up in Roosevelt and graduated from Union High School. Their parents
had met on the University of Utah ballroom dance team. All five sisters grew up
singing and dancing. Four of the five sisters have placed in the Miss Duchesne
County and Miss Uintah Basin pageants.
While large, musically inclined
families are not uncommon in Utah, the Puro sisters are unique in that they are
all currently serving in the military, with decorated careers spanning the
Army, Air Force, and Navy.
“I don’t think any one of us thought
that we would serve in the military,” says Tiara.
Tambra was 14 years old and a freshman
in high school when Tiara left for basic. “It was a little scary, a little
nerve-racking to think about her going off and doing all those things,” Tambra
recalls. “But I just thought, ‘wow, that’s pretty awesome.’”
A few months later, Tiara returned home
– the experience had changed her.
“I came home super excited about being
in the military and what that meant,” she says.
As Tiara described the experience to
her family, Tambra thought, “That will never happen in my life. It’s not
something I’m interested in. Who wants to be yelled at by drill sergeants and
do push-ups? I can’t even do a push-up, let alone pass a PT test. So, no thank
you. I’ll do something else.”
Even at 12 years old, Tambra knew she
wanted to do something important with her life.
“At the time, I was really interested
in being a nurse, so I went and asked the hospital if I could volunteer.”
Tambra was the youngest volunteer the
hospital had ever seen. She formed a group of young hospital volunteers called
the Junior Pink Ladies. As a sophomore in high school, she started working on
her Associate of Science degree in Pre-Health Sciences.
“Caring for others is a common thread
in my life,” Tambra says. “That’s really what I’m passionate about.”
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001,
Tiara was at the University of Utah, when her father called her and said, “You
need to turn on your TV.”
When she heard his unsettled tone, she
went into the living room of her college apartment and switched on the TV. She
watched the second plane collide with the South Tower of the World Trade
“I knew in that moment my life would
never be the same,” she recalls.
Tiara told her dad she loved him, but
she needed to go. She hung up and immediately called her unit to find out what
she could do to help.
The 2002 Winter Olympics came only a
few short months after 9/11. Approximately 2,400 athletes from more than 80
countries, and even more spectators, were headed to Utah. Under the looming
shadow of terrorism, the burden of law enforcement augmentation fell to the
Utah Army National Guard. More than 4,500 Guard members were called up to
provide security for the games, and Tiara was among them.
Tambra was a high school senior on the
first anniversary of 9/11. She listened to a speech by President Bush as she
was getting ready for school and thought to herself, “Where am I going in life?
How will I pay for things? What’s my next step?”
“For members of our military,” President
Bush said, “it’s been a year of sacrifice and service far from home.”
Tambra immediately reflected on her
own sister’s sacrifice and service, and said to herself, “That’s what I want to
do. Tiara did it, I think I can do it. I’m not very aggressive, I don’t do
those physical things, but I can try.”
The same recruiter who worked with
Tiara three years earlier happened to see Tambra at school that day and asked,
“Have you given it any thought?”
Tambra replied “Yes,” and two weeks later, she enlisted in the Army National Guard to be an administrative specialist, assigned to the same unit as her sister.
“I really wanted to be a combat medic,” Tambra says, “But I also really wanted to start college as soon as possible. I chose the shorter occupational school.”
At the time, the Utah National Guard
offered an orientation course called Non-Prior Service Support which helped
prepare future Soldiers for Basic Combat Training. The course was conducted by
a retired Marine drill instructor and designed to be physically grueling. Today,
this same program has been expanded into the Recruit Sustainment Program.
“It just about killed me,” recalls Tambra.
“I couldn’t sit up on my own for two full weeks.”
Realizing she had a lot of work to do,
she started doing push-ups and sit-ups and went running every single day until
she graduated high school. She was headed to Fort Jackson in March 2003.
Around that same time, Tiara’s unit
received a mobilization order.
“In the Guard we’re always ready. We’re
always exercising and training, so we were ready when the call came,” she says.
In April of 2003, Tiara’a unit headed
to Iraq while Tambra was in the middle of basic training.
“The training felt very real to me because
my sister was already in Iraq,” says Tambra.
Tambra would see newspapers in display
cases outside the dining facility where she ate each day, headlining the
toppled Saddam Hussein statue. As she donned her gas mask and entered the gas
chambers, she imagined Hussein’s chemical attacks on innocent civilians and
thought, “Wow. This is why we do what we do.”
When Tambra returned home from basic
training, she immediately enrolled in Utah Valley State College using her new
military education benefits, and joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). Even before enlistment, she had considered becoming
an officer, but wanted the added experience of
Tambra graduated in the spring of 2005,
with a degree in community health and military science. She was assigned to the
144th Area Support Medical Company as a medical services officer. As soon as
she finished Officer Basic Course, she was headed to Fort Bliss, Texas, where
her unit was preparing to deploy to Iraq.
Meanwhile, Tiara had returned from her
own deployment and decided to reenlist, but this time in the Utah Air National
Guard as a personnel specialist.
Then in 2010, the twins, Taryn and
Ty’lene, graduated high school.
“I wanted to be a veterinarian,” says Ty’lene.
“I kind of had it in my mind that I wanted to be an Army veterinarian, but I
wanted to wait about a year after graduation to make sure the military was
actually something that I wanted to do for myself, not just following in my
She went to Weber State University
with a music scholarship. One year after graduation, she met with the recruiter
on campus and decided to enlist. The officer who administered the Oath of
Enlistment was none other than Ty’lene’s older sister, Tambra, who had recently
returned from her Iraq deployment.
Ty’lene joined under the Simultaneous Membership Program, planning to return to Weber State’s ROTC
program after completing basic training, but
plans changed when she had her first taste of the military.
“I fell in love with the Army mindset,”
While still at Advanced
Individual Training, Ty’lene applied
for several full-time positions in the Utah National Guard. Two weeks later,
she was working as an admin assistant in the Guard. Not long after that, she
joined the Utah Guard Biathlon team and brought home two second-place medals
from her first regional competition. She would go on to take first place in the
2015 Utah Best Warrior Competition, to become the Soldier of the Year.
Today, Tambra and Ty’lene serve in the
Army National Guard, Tiara and Tayva serve in the Air Guard, and Taryn serves
in the Navy.
“We’re intertwined,” Ty’lene says.
“Even though we all have such different military careers, we’re all still
“My parents raised us to know our strengths
and to always try our hardest, to tell the truth and be brave,” says Tiara. “To
do things that scare us. To eat the food that’s put in front of us, whether we
like it or not. If you look at the way my mom and dad raised us, those skills
are what helped us to adapt to serve in the military.”
When asked about what it’s like having
five daughters serving in the military, Steve Puro says, “It’s the scariest
thing you’ll ever be proud of. My girls have grown in the military. As a dad, I
know they are going to be OK, because they have learned to stand on their own
two feet and take charge of their lives.”