Guard Soldier Succeeds on All-Army Women’s Rugby Team

SPC Samantha Coleman, a Motor Transport Operator with the 2220th Transportation Company in Tucson, Arizona, poses with her All-Army Women’s Rugby Team jersey at Papago Park Military Reserve.

PHOENIX, Arizona – Practices in the hot, sticky North Carolina summer last six hours a day on the turf field, making conditions grueling. Sweat flows, feet hurt, and the heat will only intensify as athletes like Specialist (SPC) Samantha Coleman prepare for their upcoming tournament.

The San Antonio native and 88M Truck Driver with the 2220th Transportation Company of the Arizona Army National Guard is one of the athletes on the All-Army Women’s Rugby Team.

SPC Coleman bounced around schools playing basketball and learning mixed martial arts, and she began playing rugby about a year ago. While playing with her team in Tucson, she learned about the All-Army Women’s Rugby Team.

“I’ve only been playing less than a year,” she says. “You never know unless you try.”

With encouragement from her teammates, she decided to go through the competitive application process. She made the team that consisted of Officers and Non-commissioned Officers. She felt as if she wasn’t good enough to play alongside those leaders.

At first, she thought, “I don’t deserve to be here. I’m so outclassed. But, it’s like, you know what? The worst they can do is say no.”

First Lieutenant (1LT) Kasey McCravey, captain of the All-Army Women’s Rugby Team and member of the U.S. Women’s National Rugby Team, attributes SPC Coleman’s success to her desire to learn.

“She has an ability to take information and apply it immediately,” says 1LT McCravey. “She would do the extras, and she was a positive light to the team.”

“You may feel like you’re just a regular Specialist, or whatever you may be,” says SPC Coleman. “But the work you do matters.”

Making the team was just the beginning. She and the team had to endure a summertime training camp in North Carolina.

“That training camp is honestly the highlight of my life,” she says. “Everyone’s on the same page and trying to get better and grow.”

“She came in having defensive strength, and she was weaker on her passing,” 1LT McCravey recalls. “She stayed longer with the coaches and other players and improved her passing skills.”

The team’s hard work was in preparation for the Armed Forces Sports First Women’s Rugby Championship in Wilmington, N.C. in July.

Army dominated, going undefeated in the tournament. The victory garnered an invitation to the Cape Fear Tournament, where Army faced tougher competition and placed third.

“The whole concept about rugby is community and family, more so than any other sport I’ve been a part in,” says SPC Coleman.

Her rugby team is family, just like being in the Arizona Army National Guard. “If you’re having a moment of weakness, or whatever, you’re just like, we’re in this together; embrace the suck.”

SPC Coleman plans to continue playing rugby for the Army. After getting her degree, she wants to be commissioned as an intelligence Officer.

“The Army has let me pursue a lot of my passions,” she says. “That’s a real family. They would do anything for you, because you would do anything for them.”

The self-doubt SPC Coleman felt when she first joined the team has given way to a better sense of worth.

“Don’t count yourself out before you even try – don’t let other people make you small.”

When you join the Army National Guard, you gain family, experience, and skills for life. With benefits like tuition assistance and the flexibility to serve part-time in your home State, you can achieve your goals while making a difference in your community and country. To explore available opportunities, explore the job board where you’ll find careers in fields like aviation, engineering, and technology. To learn more, contact a recruiter today!

From an original article by SPC Jacob Dunlap and SPC John Randall, 123rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in October 2019.

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Ace Lends a Paw to Guard Soldiers in Need

Ace, a therapy dog in training, is the newest member of the New Jersey Army National Guard’s Psychological Health Program. (Photo by MSG Matt Hecht).

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. – The New Jersey Army National Guard’s Psychological Health Program recently welcomed its fifth team member, although instead of wearing combat boots, he has four paws. Ace is a rescue dog, and at 8 months old, he’s been making waves throughout the State as a therapy animal in training.

Ace can be seen sporting military gear with a large “PET ME” patch emblazoned on the side.

“He’s going to be a tool that we’ll be able to use in order to connect Soldiers and provide emotional and therapeutic support throughout the State,” says Captain (CPT) Melissa Parmenter, a behavioral health officer with the New Jersey Army National Guard.

“Sometimes when we’re struggling with mental illness or just life stressors, it’s hard to get that courage to come forward and ask for some help, so Ace’s role will be to help open that door.”

When CPT Parmenter was pondering what to name the dog, her husband noted that Batman had a dog named Ace. She immediately took to the idea when she realized it fit the Army acronym for Ask, Care, Escort.

CPT Melissa Parmenter and therapy dog, Ace, in front of the New Jersey National Guard’s Joint Force Headquarters at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. (Photo by MSG Matt Hecht).

“A.C.E. teaches Soldiers at the lowest level, if you have a battle buddy in need, this is how to get them to the right place, and not to leave them alone until they’re in the right hands,” she says.

Ace has already been helping Soldiers, providing comfort to those in need.

“Everybody’s body posture and everything changes automatically when they see him. He’s licking everybody, and everybody is trying to touch him, hug him, and get kisses from him. The whole demeanor of wherever he walks in changes.”

CPT Parmenter hopes that Ace will break down barriers when it comes to mental health.

“I think Ace will help change the thinking that therapy has to be sitting at a desk and talking to someone,” she says.

“I think it will help us get the message across that there are different modalities available, and there are different ways to receive therapy that can be helpful and really beneficial.”

Making an impact is ingrained in the Army National Guard’s mission. If you’re passionate about helping others and making a difference in someone’s life, consider joining the National Guard. With hundreds of positions available in the medical field, including mental health specialists, you, too, can serve part-time in your home State, and take care of those who may need you the most. To see all current job opportunities, visit the job board or contact a recruiter to learn more today.

From an original article by MSG Matt Hecht, New Jersey National Guard, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in October 2019.

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Ale in a Day’s Work: Officer Credits Guard Experience for Brewery’s Success

Major (MAJ) Steven Gagner, Infantry Officer in the Vermont Army National Guard, has built an accomplished, fulfilling life from the skills he’s gained, the lessons he’s learned, and the experiences he’s had while serving in the military. Those fundamentals gave him the tools he needed to succeed, and now he’s living his ultimate dream.

In 2010, while deployed in Afghanistan, he and a fellow Vermont Army National Guard Soldier came up with the idea to open a brewery back in Vermont. They wrote up plans in the back of a notebook, and when they arrived home, they took out a loan – that’s when 14th Star Brewing Company was born.

They received their license in May 2012 and brewed 60 gallons that month. Now, seven years later, they’re brewing 6,000 gallons a week, have 24 employees, and distribute to seven states: Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, with additional limited distribution in the United Kingdom.

Major (MAJ) Steven Gagner of the Vermont Army National Guard is co-founder of 14th Star Brewing Co., and Danger Close Craft Distilling.

After the success of 14th Star, MAJ Gagner and two fellow Soldiers opened a whiskey distillery called Danger Close Craft Distilling, with one goal in mind: to make a big impact on veterans. Future sales of Danger Close’s bourbon and whiskey raise money for non-profits and brings veterans to Vermont, at no cost, to teach them all about business, and how their skills from the military can translate directly to their civilian lives.

“We were leaning so heavily on the things we learned in the service about building a team, establishing goals, leading people, getting results, working hard – all of those things we had learned in the past couple of decades in the service transitioned beautifully to business ownership.”

Because of these feats, MAJ Gagner was named Small Business Person of the Year for the State of Vermont this past June and the Military Times’ inaugural Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017.

Along with running two successful businesses, MAJ Gagner is now the battalion commander of the Army Mountain Warfare School in Vermont, which teaches Soldiers survivability, lethality, and mobility in extreme climatic environments. Training 1,000 Soldiers a year in the rain, snow, and mountains, the school focuses on basic and advanced mountaineering, advanced medical evacuations, and high-angle shooting.

MAJ Gagner’s decision to join the military stems from growing up in a patriotic family with a father who served in the military for 36 years, and his desire to serve his country. He enlisted in the Army National Guard in 1996 while attending Norwich University, and has been serving ever since.

“It just seemed like a hand-in-glove fit,” he recalls.

MAJ Gagner’s military journey spans decades and has led him down many different career paths within the National Guard.

“I have the weirdest career ever,” he jokes.

MAJ Steven Gagner is an Infantry Officer in the Vermont Army National Guard.

For the first eight years of his service, he worked in aviation, both in the Guard and active duty, serving in Korea and Alabama. Once he was off active duty, he went back to college. After graduation was when his career touched many facets of the Guard, including Armor, Quartermaster, Logistics, and Infantry. Fifteen years and four branches later, he is now a decorated Infantry officer in the Vermont Army National Guard.

“I love Vermont Guardsmen,” he says. “There’s just something about the Vermont Guard. The Soldiers are really terrific, professional, and we’re a family. It’s pretty cool to be in such a close-knit, patriotic state.”

Using his Guard benefits, MAJ Gagner purchased a house using the VA Home Loan, used tuition assistance while attending college, and was able to transfer his Post-9/11 education benefits to his two children, taking the burden of college debt off their shoulders.

“I’ve had such amazing experiences,” he says.

MAJ Gagner has dedicated so much of his time to helping others, not only with his businesses, but through his service as well. While deployed in Iraq, he was involved in a handful of public works projects. During his second deployment in Afghanistan, he was part of a patrol team that kept the civilians of Bagram safe from rockets. In 2011, he toured Vermont with his fellow guardsmen and helped victims of Hurricane Irene.

“It was so wonderful and fulfilling to do things that other people needed.”

MAJ Gagner is a firm believer in going for what you want and never asking, “what if?” Joining the military ultimately led him to becoming a businessman, and he couldn’t be anymore grateful.

“My time in the Army has made me a better business owner,” he says, “and being a business owner has made me a better officer.”

If you’ve got passion, drive, and the desire to be a part of something big, join the Army National Guard. With more than 130 careers in fields like engineering, technology, and intelligence, you’ll be able to serve your community, country, and State while having the time to pursue your passions! Browse open opportunities on the job board today and contact a recruiter to learn more.

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