Guard Officer Finds Purpose in Military Service and Helping Veterans

2LT Bryan Abell recently commissioned as an Infantry Officer in the Michigan Army National Guard through ROTC at Michigan State.

Second Lieutenant (2LT) Bryan Abell says he’s made a few decisions that he doesn’t have a solid explanation for – one of them was joining the military without knowing much about it, other than what he’d seen in the movies. Another was his successful attempt to break a Guinness World Record for doing the most chest-to-ground burpees in a 12-hour period. The inspiration was a YouTube video he just happened to catch about someone who’d broken a record for most burpees in an hour.

These days, the recent college graduate is finding more meaning and more purpose in the things he does, and he gives most of the credit for that to his experiences serving in the Michigan Army National Guard. The 24-year-old just commissioned as an Officer in the Guard in December through his participation in ROTC at Michigan State University.

Between finishing up his finance degree and serving as an 11B Infantryman in the Michigan Army National Guard’s 1/126th Infantry Battalion as part of the Guard’s Simultaneous Membership Program, he also found time during his senior year to start a non-profit organization, the Stronger Warrior Foundation, with his sister, Katelyn.

“We wanted it to be a military-based organization; it’s an amazing community that doesn’t get thanked enough for what they do,” says 2LT Abell. “It’s one thing to say, ‘Thank you for your service.’ We wanted to have an impact that wasn’t just surface level.”

Stronger Warrior Foundation creates care packages for deployed Soldiers. Items are contained in hand-built wooden crates that can be decorated by a sponsor, who can also send written or video messages to the recipients.

The Stronger Warrior Foundation creates care packages for deployed Soldiers.

2LT Abell is also putting his pursuit of another world’s record – this time for most burpees in an hour – toward raising money for his charity. You can catch the action live on Stronger Warrior’s website at 4 p.m. Eastern, Saturday, March 21.

Part of the inspiration to do something that helps veterans came from 2LT Abell’s experience as an ROTC Cadet training in Honduras, where he rucked alongside the Honduran military through villages with mud huts and no running water.

“It was a humbling experience to see how lucky we [Americans] are and how lucky our military is.”

ROTC also gave him the opportunity to participate in Air Assault School and compete against seven other international ROTC teams at the Ranger Challenge, held at The U.S. Military Academy.

Besides opportunities that have molded him into an Officer, his military service also came with some great financial benefits: the GI Bill®, the GI Bill® Kicker, State tuition assistance (about $6,000 a year in Michigan), federal tuition assistance (about $4,000 a year), a monthly stipend through ROTC, and a scholarship that paid for the cost of living on campus.

“I didn’t have to pay for any room and board expenses while at Michigan State. I didn’t have to pay for much of anything,” he says.

Army ROTC allows Cadets to choose between Active Duty or National Guard assignments once they commission. 2LT Abell is staying in the Guard, though he had considered switching from Infantry Officer to Financial Manager Officer. His training at Fort Benning, Ga., home of the infantry, cemented that decision.

“I absolutely just fell in love with everything about the Infantry. The history, the ancestry of the Infantry, the lineage that you’re following after – it’s something very special.”

Staying in the Guard also means he can serve part-time and close to home in his new Unit.

“I plan on being very involved in the military, but I also want to be close to my family, run this non-profit organization, and work a civilian job, too.”

Rather than pursuing a corporate career, 2LT Abell is going to be working as a financial advisor to help people with their finances so they have “a better quality of life.” He’s planning to pursue a master’s degree and eventually work in the government so his work can have a positive impact on the lives of others.

“There’s got to be some kind of purpose and meaning behind it or I don’t feel like I’m fulfilling myself.”

Joining the Guard, he says, “has been the best experience of my life. I definitely wouldn’t have started that non-profit if I wasn’t in the National Guard. I don’t think I would have broken that world record if I wasn’t in the National Guard. I don’t think I’d be a lot of things if I didn’t join the National Guard.”

If you’re between 17 and 35 years old, you, too, can join the Army National Guard, and you don’t have to join ROTC to take advantage of great benefits like money for college. The Guard also offers free career training in fields like Transportation, Aviation, Mechanics and Maintenance, and Heavy Weapons. Our job board has all the details. Contact your local recruiter to learn more.

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Off-Duty South Carolina Guard Members Help Bahamian Hurricane Victims


2LT William “Cole” Sanford Jr. and 2LT Sam Evans, both from the South Carolina Army National Guard, fly back and forth from Florida to the Bahamas while off duty in September 2019 to deliver supplies to victims of Hurricane Dorian.

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Two South Carolina Army National Guard members volunteered to deliver needed supplies to Bahamian victims of Hurricane Dorian in five flights on a small plane.

South Carolina Army National Guard Second Lieutenant (2LT) Sam Evans, 1-118th Infantry Battalion, Bravo Company platoon leader, and 2LT William “Cole” Sanford Jr., Charlie Company, 1-151st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion platoon leader, found the opportunity to volunteer via an online forum from a group that had organized the collection of supplies but needed pilots and planes to fly them to the Bahamas.

“I reached out to get more details, and asked Sanford if he was interested in making the relief trips with me, to which he said yes,” says 2LT Evans.

Hurricane Dorian inflicted heavy damage on the Bahamas Aug. 24, 2019, killing at least 50 people and leaving about 70,000 people homeless.

2LT Evans, a graduate of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and ROTC cadet, obtained his private pilot license before commissioning and then returned to South Carolina. 2LT Sanford, a graduate of Wofford College in South Carolina and an ROTC cadet, earned his private pilot license for a single-engine, land, and fixed-wing aircraft while attending school.

The two flew back and forth from South Florida to the Bahamas five times in September on a two-seat single-engine prop 1943 Luscombe Silvaire, delivering more than 500 pounds of toiletries, tents, and Meals Ready to Eat (MREs).

“We were limited on space and weight,” says 2LT Evans, who is pursuing a commercial pilot license. “We could take about 100 pounds of supplies each trip and would pack aid into every space possible.”

“At the end of the day, what we did was small,” says 2LT Sanford. “But it felt good that the toiletries and other things that we brought could be helping someone. It may just have been a pick-me-up for someone who had just lost their house.”

The Army National Guard gives Soldiers like 2LTs Sanford and Evans the opportunity to pursue civilian careers, education, and other training while serving part-time in their home State, so there is time to further your career while staying close to home.

Citizen-Soldiers earn benefits to help pay for education and expenses while serving their country and their community.

With positions in more than 130 career fields including heavy weapons, intelligence, and aviation, 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 SGT David Erskine, South Carolina National Guard, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in October 2019.

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Like Father, Like Sons: Idaho Guard’s Bundy Brothers Serve Together

FORT IRWIN, Calif. – Idaho Army National Guard Soldiers Second Lieutenant (2LT) Zane Bundy and his big brother, Sergeant (SGT) Nathan Bundy, take after their father, Matt Bundy, in a number of ways.

All three work for the Mountain Home School District. Matt and Nathan both teach at Mountain Home High School, and Zane is a substitute teacher who hopes to have his own classroom someday. In addition, all three either have or are currently serving in the military.

Matt retired from the U.S. Air Force. Nathan and Zane both serve in the Army National Guard’s 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team’s 2nd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment, headquartered in Caldwell. For the next couple of weeks, both are attending a training at Fort Irwin, Calif.

“I was raised on the idea of serving my country,” says Nathan, who enlisted into the Idaho Army National Guard in 2012 as a 35F Intelligence Analyst.

Nathan is the intelligence section’s senior noncommissioned officer. His team’s job is to help analyze intel Soldiers in the combined arms battalion collect and to help his battalion commander make good decisions on the battlefield.

Idaho Army National Guard 2LT Zane Bundy and SGT Nathan Bundy pose for a selfie while training together at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif.

Idaho Army National Guard 2LT Zane Bundy and SGT Nathan Bundy pose for a selfie while training together at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif.

It’s a position that’s vastly different than Zane’s job, who leads a platoon in Idaho’s only infantry company from his Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

“Serving together gives us a new dynamic in our relationship,” Nathan says. “It’s a new common ground and a shared experience, but we’re also on different sides of the Guard as an enlisted intel Soldier and an infantry officer.”

Zane joined the Idaho Army National Guard in January 2017, and earned his commission in November 2017.

“I saw how great of an opportunity Nate had to be in the Guard, so I thought I would follow,” says Zane.

At his commissioning ceremony, Nathan was the first to salute his younger brother of four years.

“I was really proud of him when he commissioned,” Nathan recalls.

Zane says he doesn’t get to see much of his brother during unit operations, but that it’s always good to see him when their paths cross. Both agree that serving in the Army National Guard provides them with experiences they don’t get to have in the classroom as teachers.

“I enjoy both jobs,” Nathan boasts. “Being able to serve part-time is a great experience.”

The 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team is completing a month-long rotation at the National Training Center to build unit readiness and increase Solider proficiency in its wartime missions. The unit will train against a near-peer opposing force provided by the Army’s 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. More than 4,000 Guard Soldiers from more than 30 States are participating in the exercise.

The Army National Guard gives you the opportunity to pursue a civilian career while serving part-time in your home State, so your family is always close by! With positions in more than 130 career fields including armor and field artillery, intelligence, and aviation, 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 CPT Robert Taylor, Idaho National Guard, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in June 2019.

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