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.

Share on FacebookShare on Twitter

A Guard Soldier’s Journey from Truck Driver to Attorney

In his eight years of part-time service with the Illinois Army National Guard, Jacob Smith has gotten some big benefits – leadership skills, a sense of direction in life, and his undergraduate and law degrees, courtesy of the Guard’s education benefits.

And now this former 88M Truck Driver is putting his law degree to work as the newest officer in the Illinois Guard’s Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps, the branch of the Guard that serves as a legal resource for Soldiers, Guard units, and the State Adjutant General.

“It is an interesting contrast,” says First Lieutenant (1LT) Smith of his switch in military occupational specialties (MOSs) from driving large vehicles to now advising his colleagues on legal matters.

“Being a JAG officer is more applicable to my civilian career,” he says. “It will broaden my base of legal experience and knowledge.”

Growing up, 1LT Smith had positive impressions of becoming an attorney, having worked in his family’s law firm, and of military service because his father had served in the active duty Army and later the Illinois Army National Guard.

After starting college, 1LT Smith decided to serve in the military.

“I thought the Guard would be a good way to do both at the same time.”

1LT Jacob Smith has gone from 88M Truck Driver to an officer in the Illinois Army National Guard’s Judge Advocate General Corps.

1LT Jacob Smith has gone from 88M Truck Driver to an officer in the Illinois Army National Guard’s Judge Advocate General Corps.

He chose 88M because Illinois has a lot of transportation units, and the MOS had a relatively short training schedule. His Advanced Individual Training could be squeezed into a summer between semesters, plus he could drill close to school.

And because of his State’s tuition assistance, 1LT Smith estimates he has saved somewhere in the ballpark of $100,000 in tuition for his undergrad and law degrees. On top of that, the GI Bill helped with living expenses while he was in school.

“These are huge benefits on the financial side,” says 1LT Smith, 26, who’s also hoping to take advantage of another Guard benefit in the next few years – VA home loan eligibility – which allows Soldiers to buy a home with little to no down payment.

1LT Smith, who’s been an attorney since 2017, just recently completed his JAG Corps training, a two-part process. First, he attended the 6-week Direct Commission Course at Fort Benning, and then he spent 10 ½ weeks at the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School in Virginia where he received “a crash course in many areas of military law.”

As a judge advocate in his new unit, 1LT Smith expects to do a fair amount of what’s called administrative law. This includes participating in administrative separation boards used to determine whether a Soldier should be discharged from the Guard because of misconduct. In such cases, the Soldier would appear before a board instead of in a courtroom.

“It’s one tool used by commanders to more efficiently deal with certain misconduct, rather than pursuing a court-martial process.”

Judge advocates often deal with cases involving criminal offenses as well, which is a departure from 1LT Smith’s full-time civilian law career, where he focuses on business law, estate planning, and commercial real estate and banking matters.

As a JAG officer, he’ll also be handling cases related to property law. 1LT Smith explains that typically a commander would initiate an investigation if a sensitive and valuable item like a pair of night vision goggles was lost to determine if someone should be held liable. A JAG officer would review the findings to make sure they are legally sufficient.

One of 1LT Smith’s goals for the future is to deploy overseas and work in operational law: “the laws of war, advising commanders in an overseas environment on whether they can legally engage certain targets, spend money on particular projects, and what are the repercussions for taking certain actions in a combat environment,” he says. “It’s an area of law where there’s not really a civilian equivalent.”

Overall, 1LT Smith says his time in the Guard has given him direction in his life, great people to serve with, and an opportunity to give back.

“The opportunity to serve comes with sacrifices, certainly, but I get to carry on a civilian career and work with incredible leaders and friends,” he says. “It adds tremendous value to my life.”

So, if you’re looking for a way to serve your community and your country part-time while you pursue a civilian career, you should speak to an Army National Guard recruiter. Besides outstanding education benefits, the Guard also offers training in more than 130 career fields.

Search our job board for details on careers in engineering, administration, infantry, armor and field artillery, aviation, medicine, military police, intelligence, mechanic and maintenance, transportation, and logistics support.

Share on FacebookShare on Twitter

It’s Not About Your Hair. It’s About Your Heart.

Guard Soldier Uses Part-time Modeling Career to Help Others with Alopecia

SPC Imani Gayle of the New Jersey Army National Guard poses for a portrait in Irvington, N.J., her hometown. (Photo by MSG Matt Hecht.)

SPC Imani Gayle of the New Jersey Army National Guard poses for a portrait in Irvington, N.J., her hometown. (Photo by MSG Matt Hecht.)

IRVINGTON, N.J. – At just 22 years old, Specialist (SPC) Imani Gayle balances college, serving in the Army National Guard, a fashion career, and charitable work assisting girls with alopecia: a condition that causes hair loss.

A native of Irvington, SPC Gayle also has alopecia, and has marketed her signature look through working with various clothing and jewelry designers in the New York City area.

Her passion for helping people with alopecia goes beyond charitable work. She’s also getting a degree in biology pre-med, with the hope of one day becoming a dermatologist.

“My reason for joining the Army National Guard was to help me pay for school,” says SPC Gayle, an 88M Motor Transport Operator with New Jersey’s 2-113th Infantry Regiment.

SPC Gayle has put school on hold as she prepares to deploy with the New Jersey National Guard supporting Operation Enduring Freedom – Horn of Africa.

Ever since she was a child, she had worn some type of hat to cover up her alopecia.

“Growing up with alopecia was very hard. I went to a Catholic school, and I used to wear a uniform. My grandma made special hats to match my uniform,” she says. “My eyebrows would fall out, so I would wear my hats low, and kids would question it. It was difficult. I had to ignore them. It really affected me. Kids used to pull my hats off.”

When SPC Gayle went to Basic Training, she wore a hairpiece. The heat and time limitations made wearing it difficult and time-consuming. Finally, she decided to take it off.

“I was a little shy, but it was so hot, I took my hair off. I had this crazy tan line, a lot of people stared, and a lot of drill sergeants were curious.”

She attracted the negative attention of one female drill sergeant.

“I had a drill sergeant yelling in my face, ‘You think you’re cute, you got a weave on, you think you’re cute, I think she wants to be cute.’ I didn’t break down at that moment, but as soon as the shark attack was done, I just broke down crying. My male drill sergeant pulled me aside, and said, ‘She didn’t know.’ I think she felt really bad, and later she apologized to me.”

SPC Gayle’s drill sergeant wasn’t the only one who came to her defense. Her fellow Soldiers also embraced who she was.

“Initially, I always wore my wigs. So, when I got back, it was just, hmm, if these strangers who don’t know me and never met me could come to my defense and do everything that I felt people at home could do, then why couldn’t people at home do it?” she says.

“So, once I came home I stopped wearing my wigs, and I got a lot of attention. I got a lot of offers from people locally who do fashion shows, who make clothes, who make jewelry, different makeup artists, different hair stylists. I’ve done hair photo shoots and everything. It kind of helped me build a platform for young girls in New Jersey with alopecia.”

The money she gets from her modeling shoots goes to her Alopecia Awareness Foundation, and so far, she has given out three college scholarships to girls in Nevada, Texas, and New Jersey.

“They’re so overwhelmed with joy. When you’re young it’s hard to find someone you can relate to. I think I give them a lot of comfort, and I still talk to them. It makes me feel so good.”

Thinking back to her school days, SPC Gayle realized her hats were cute, but she always preferred to “have her head out there.”

“It’s not about your hair, it’s about your heart. Embrace your alopecia and be accepting of yourself. It’s important that you accept yourself for who you are, and not what people see you as.”

The Army National Guard gives you the flexibility to serve part-time while making a difference in your community. If you’re passionate about helping others and want to pursue your dreams, explore more than 130 career options on our job board and answer the call that speaks to you. Contact a local recruiter today to learn more!

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

Share on FacebookShare on Twitter