Guard Chaplain Says Serving Once a Month is Not Enough

CPT Rachel Zarnke with the Four Chaplins Medal
CPT Rachel Zarnke, Chaplain for the New Jersey Army National Guard’s 1st Squadron, 102nd Cavalry Regiment, displays The Four Chaplains Medal she was presented with in Jordan last June. The four chaplains – two Protestant ministers, a rabbi, and a Catholic priest – went down with the torpedoed USAT Dorchester during World War II, giving up their own life preservers so others might survive. (Photo by SFC Brian A. Barbour, Army National Guard.)

Captain (CPT) Rachel Zarnke loves serving as a Chaplain in the Army National Guard so much that coming to drill “one weekend a month is not enough.”

“I love being an Army Chaplain,” she says. “I love the mission. I just want to do it every day.”

The 33-year-old Soldier is joining the active duty Army this summer so she can serve full-time, but after eight years with the New Jersey Army National Guard, she leaves on many high notes.

One is being awarded with the Four Chaplains Medal in 2019, which is presented to one Army Chaplain a year for “collegial selfless behavior while rendering religious support to the military community regardless of faith or race.” For that, she thanks her first Unit – the 104th Brigade Engineer Battalion – because “they grew me and taught me what it meant to be a Chaplain.”

Another is a 9-month deployment to Jordan with the 102nd Calvary Regiment, where she learned it was OK to take this next step in her career. Her mission there was to support Soldiers of any faith or no faith at all and be their “morality, ethical, and spiritual touchstone,” she says.

“When deployed, you are absent normal touchstones,” she explains. “It can become disorienting very quickly. Having a Chaplain able to reorient people on their values, their goals, and what is real, and what is just sort of the fog of the deployment is important.”

As a Christian minister, CPT Zarnke represents her faith tradition, but to help Soldiers of different or no faith, she listens and asks Soldiers how their spiritual traditions or their value sets might instruct them to resolve a problem. During the deployment, if she felt a Soldier needed support beyond what she could provide, she referred them to other resources as necessary.

In Jordan to support Operation Spartan Shield last year, CPT Zarnke also led “spiritual resiliency trips” to places that carry religious, spiritual, cultural, or environmental significance.

“Being in a place where God has been is very important to me, so to be able to share that part of my faith with my Soldiers was incredible.”

CPT Zarnke, an Illinois native, was in seminary school at Princeton when she decided to join the military. Since she was a full-time student, the Guard was the perfect branch to join because service is part-time. CPT Zarnke also served as a minister in a Lutheran church in New Jersey for 3 1/2 years.

The military, she says, showed her there were infinite ways to serve.

“I don’t like to play the demographic game, but when you are a young female, trying to step up and lead in a church, no one wants to listen to you. Not intentionally, it’s just not a voice people are used to deferring to. The Army teaches you to stay in your lane – to know what you know and to lead. It was a life-changing experience.”

CPT Zarnke especially likes working with younger Soldiers who are still figuring out who they are.

“I think a Soldier’s heart is amazing. They are so selfless, and so honorable, and to be able to support them in their moments of need really means a lot to me.”

In her first domestic mission, CPT Zarnke lent her support during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, providing what she calls “ministry of presence –  just being there for your Soldiers,” whether it’s to thank them on behalf of the citizens of New Jersey for responding to the devastating storm, being a safe person to talk to or pray with, or to provide them with the Eucharist because many churches were closed.

At drill, her job is to get to know the 300 to 400 Soldiers in her Unit and provide worship services and Bible studies, but her most fulfilling mission is “whenever I’m called outside of drill and there’s a need I can meet.” That could mean meeting up with a Soldier in a hospital, a coffee shop, or a laundromat to lend her support.

When CPT Zarnke looks back on her early days in the Guard, she says she had no idea what she’d gotten herself into, but “the Army will teach you what it needs from you. I could never repay the Army for everything it’s given me. It is an incredible community.”

If you’re interested in joining a community of dedicated women and men who serve both their communities and their country, Guard service comes with benefits that go beyond personal fulfillment. You’ll train for a career in one of 130 specialties, including everything from Administrative jobs to Police and Protection roles to serving on the front lines as part of Ground Forces. Guard Soldiers are also eligible for money for college, low-cost health and life insurance, and more.

Contact your local recruiter for more information about the Army National Guard.

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National Guard Gives Combat Medic Priceless Training


SPC Leannah TeKrony, Health Care Specialist in the South Dakota Army National Guard, performs preventive maintenance checks and services on her medical bag during Operation Atlantic Resolve in Grafenwohr, Germany. (Photo by SPC Tyler O’Connell.)

GRAFENWOHR, Germany – Army National Guard Specialist (SPC) Leannah TeKrony is bringing her medical expertise to Operation Atlantic Resolve in Grafenwohr.

SPC TeKrony, from the small town of Estelline, S.D., is attached to the South Dakota Army National Guard’s 1-147th Field Artillery Battalion and serves as a 68W Health Care Specialist, commonly referred to as a combat medic.

She has been drawn to the medical field and the military ever since she was a child.

“It started when I was about 8 years old,” says TeKrony. “I had a huge respect for military personnel, and I had a doctor’s outfit with a stethoscope, so I would pretend to be a military medical person.”

But SPC TeKrony had her doubts about being able to join the military.

“I didn’t understand when I was younger that women could be in the military at the time,” she says. “As I got older, I realized there are things like the National Guard and how more military occupational specialties have opened up to women. There came a point when I realized, ‘I can do that.’”

After talking to a recruiter a few times, “I felt a deep calling and I knew it was what I wanted to do, especially if I could get into the medical field.”

Job training for a Health Care Specialist requires 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training and 16 weeks of Advanced Individual Training, including practice of inpatient care. Some of the skills you’ll learn are patient care techniques, emergency medical techniques, methods of sterilizing surgical equipment, and plaster-casting techniques.

During her initial training, SPC TeKrony received three top awards: Iron Medic, Leadership Award, and Distinguished Honor Grad, and was selected for a significant leadership role in training.

“It’s a pretty difficult course,” she says. “It was the first time in my life where I was really recognized for doing what I felt was right. I was crazy humbled and honored.”

SPC TeKrony then found herself attached to the 1-147th Field Artillery Battalion, where she went on back-to-back deployments, one with each battery.

“I never wanted to just sit in South Dakota,” she says. “I never want to sit in just one place, that’s why these deployments have been great. I like to go places and do and see different things.”

Throughout her time as a combat medic, SPC TeKrony has learned a lot of medical procedures that most civilian nurses are not allowed to do.

“I’ve gotten to do sutures, cyst removal, toenail removal, wart excisions on feet and fingers,” she says. “It’s pretty amazing because a lot of the time on the civilian side, it is only the providers that are allowed to do such things.”

SPC TeKrony has been taking college classes while deployed to further her medical career. Soldiers earn benefits to help pay for education and expenses while serving their country and their community.

“I’ve definitely been drawn to a lot of specialties in my life,” she says. “After being here, I would definitely like to work in an ER; however, there is a part of me that would like to go to a more dangerous place to be able to take care of these things that happen daily, whether that be in the Army or on the civilian side.”

SPC TeKrony highly recommends anybody interested in entering the medical field to join the Army National Guard as a Health Care Specialist.

“It would be a great steppingstone into the medical career,” she says. “Not only are you more exposed on the military side, but you also get the experience to carry into the civilian side.”

With more than 130 positions in career fields ranging from Administration to Intelligence to Cyber and Ground Forces, you can find your perfect fit with the Army National Guard. Check out the job board for more information on available careers, and contact a local recruiter to learn more.

From an original article by SPC Tyler O’Connell, 129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in February 2020.

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Indiana National Guard Major Helps Manage 11,000 Troops Overseas

Indiana Army National Guard MAJ Dan Taylor, 38th Infantry Division Deputy Personnel Officer, at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. (Photo by MSG Jeff Lowry.)
Indiana Army National Guard MAJ Dan Taylor, 38th Infantry Division Deputy Personnel Officer, at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. (Photo by MSG Jeff Lowry.)

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait – For Army National Guard Major (MAJ) Dan Taylor of the 38th Infantry Division, helping to manage some 11,000 U.S. service members supporting Task Force Spartan in the Middle East is just what he signed up for.

“It is important for me to be part of something bigger than just myself,” says the Rochester, Ind., native.

MAJ Taylor, the division’s Deputy Personnel Officer, and approximately 600 Soldiers departed the Hoosier State in May to deploy to the Middle East to support Task Force Spartan, which helps strengthen defense relationships, build partner capacity, and deter aggression in the region.

“The National Guard has also allowed me to meet interesting people and go to different places,” says MAJ Taylor, who joined the military in 1995. “Our missions, whether at home or abroad, have far-reaching impacts.”

MAJ Taylor first joined the active-duty Army as a 91B Light-wheel Vehicle Mechanic.

“Enlisting provided me with a trade and a lot of personal development,” he says. “My time on active duty gave me the confidence needed to attend college. In 2001, I decided to get out of the Army to attend college.”

MAJ Taylor earned his undergraduate degree in business and human resource management from Indiana University Kokomo, his master’s in business administration from Purdue Fort Wayne, and another degree in human resources and employment relations from Penn State University.

“Once I finished grad school in 2006, I decided to join the National Guard to continue to serve,” says Taylor. “I was fortunate to branch Adjutant General Corps, which aligned with my civilian goals.”

Adjutant General Corps Soldiers focus on personnel, human resources, and strength management for the U.S. Army.

“Through the National Guard, I was able to be formally trained in human resources, which eventually helped me secure a civilian HR role,” says Taylor. “Since then, my Army HR training has augmented my development as an HR professional.”

The Army National Guard’s admin and relations experts take care of the needs of Soldiers – and the organization as a whole. From human resources and finances to legal aid and religious services, these Soldiers provide responsive assistance to personnel needs. Whether assisting an employee with pay, managing career progressions, or handling public relations for the organization, these Soldiers learn skills that directly translate to the civilian sector.

When not serving in the Army National Guard, MAJ Taylor works as a benefits representative at Allison Transmission in Speedway, Ind.

While the Army training helped MAJ Taylor procure his civilian job, he said he also sees other altruistic benefits to being in the military and serving in the National Guard.

“I am privileged to be able to serve both the State and the country. My family and my work are both very supportive of my service.”

Citizen-Soldiers like MAJ Taylor primarily serve part-time in their home States, enabling them to further their careers while staying close to home. They earn benefits to help pay for education and expenses while serving their country and their community.

With more than 130 positions in career fields ranging from heavy weapons to transportation to intelligence, you can find your perfect fit. Check out the job board for more information on available careers, and contact a local recruiter to learn more. 

From an original article by MSG Jeff Lowry, 38th Infantry Division, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in November 2019.

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