Iowa Guard Soldier Helps Community with Virtual Instruction

Spc. Taylor Lenhart, a military police Soldier with the 186th Military Police Company, Iowa Army National Guard, helps move a traffic barrier in Des Moines, April 27, 2020. Lenhart is one of 60 military police Soldiers supporting the first drive-through COVID-19 testing site in Iowa.
 SPC Taylor Lenhart, a military police Soldier with the 186th Military Police Company, Iowa Army National Guard, helps move a traffic barrier in Des Moines, April 27, 2020. Lenhart is one of 60 military police Soldiers supporting the first drive-through COVID-19 testing site in Iowa. (Photo by SGT Tawny Schmit.)

DES MOINES, Iowa – On a sunny afternoon downtown, Army National Guard Specialist (SPC) Taylor Lenhart is doing exactly what she joined the Iowa National Guard to do – helping her local community in times of crisis as a Citizen-Soldier®. SPC Lenhart is one of 60 Soldiers with the 186th Military Police Company activated to assist at Iowa’s first drive-through COVID-19 testing site.

But, up until last week, SPC Lenhart was supporting her community in another way – instructing virtual karate classes.

SPC Lenhart grew up in Ankeny, where she began taking karate classes at the age of 9. Now 22, she has earned a second-degree black belt and has been instructing students at Dojo Family Martial Arts for four years. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, SPC Lenhart and her fellow instructors knew they would have to get creative if they hoped to continue teaching their students while following social distancing guidelines.

“We had to move to Zoom (videoconference) classes, which has so far turned out really well,” SPC Lenhart says. “I help teach martial arts, but what we also teach a lot of is character skills. We help discipline kids and keep order in the house.”

Despite the distance, SPC Lenhart says all four Dojo Family Martial Arts locations in the Des Moines metro area have become one big, happy community with an average of 30 students per class. The instructors and students from different locations usually only see each other at combined belt exams, but the virtual classes have made it possible to connect with everyone more often, she says.

Now that she’s been called to State active duty, SPC Lenhart says she’s grateful for the skills 12 years of karate classes have given her – skills that go beyond kicking and blocking.

“I probably wouldn’t have joined the military if it wasn’t for the confidence karate has given me,” SPC Lenhart says. “When it comes to moving up the ranks, karate and the military are similar. When you’re an instructor, you’re in charge. You have to have the confidence to teach others what you already know. The same goes for noncommissioned officers in the Army.”

SPC Lenhart is confident in her ability to help in the fight against COVID-19, but her new mission is important on a personal level as well. When businesses began shutting down in Iowa, SPC Lenhart decided to move back home, and she says it ended up being a good decision for her family.

“I live with a high-risk person right now,” SPC Lenhart says. “My mother has muscular dystrophy and has been in a wheelchair since she was 16. I’m trying to help them get through this.”

SPC Lenhart is dedicated to supporting her family and helping her students maintain their fitness and focus through home care and virtual classes, but now she’s supporting them in a different way.

At the drive-through testing site in Des Moines, SPC Lenhart and fellow Soldiers are directing traffic and ensuring that medical personnel can do their job efficiently, all while following no-contact protocols.

“It’s really nice for us to be here and help things run more smoothly, that way people can get in and out of here fast,” SPC Lenhart says.

Above all, SPC Lenhart says she wants people to stay safe. While it can be difficult to be away from her family and students during this stressful time, she says she’s proud to help.

“I have a duty to my State and country, to the people in this community,” SPC Lenhart says. “Helping out here is also helping my students get back in the classroom faster.”

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, 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 Sergeant (SGT) Tawny Schmit, Iowa National Guard, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil on May 4, 2020.

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Citizen-Warrior: Guard Soldier Melds Military, Gridiron Experience

2LT Devin King, with the Ohio Army National Guard’s Battery C, 1st Battalion, 134th Field Artillery Regiment, also serves as the long snapper on the Ohio University football team.  (Photo by Abigail Dean, Ohio Athletics)

ATHENS, Ohio – Army National Guard Second Lieutenant (2LT) Devin King puts on his uniform when on duty with the Ohio Army National Guard’s Battery C, 1st Battalion, 134th Field Artillery Regiment. He wears a different uniform on weekends during college football season, as the long snapper on Ohio University’s team.

2LT King, like many other Ohio National Guard Soldiers, is also a college student.

He enlisted in May 2014 while still a senior at Sheridan High School in Thornville, Ohio, because he planned to go to Ohio University in Athens to wrestle. Without a scholarship, King needed a way to pay the tuition. Enlisting enabled him to do so.

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

“My father recommended looking into the Guard to help pay for school, and I took that opportunity,” says 2LT King. “I also viewed it as a great way to serve my community and country.”

Once at Ohio, he joined the university’s Army ROTC program and was recently commissioned as a Second Lieutenant.

In early 2018, his roommate talked him into trying out for the football team — not much of a stretch since 2LT King played football in high school. His skills impressed the coaches, and he made the team as a walk-on. When an injury sidelined the starting long snapper during the first game of the season, he stepped into the position.

This year, he has the starting job and a full scholarship.

“I remember the week before the first game (last season) thinking, ‘Wow, I’m really playing (NCAA) Division I football,’” he says. “Stepping into that starting role full-time really meant a lot to me. I put in a lot of practice time during the summer, and it really paid off.”

2LT King graduated with a bachelor’s degree in health service administration in December 2018, and he’s on target to earn his master’s in coaching education. Next on his list of goals is to attend the Field Artillery Basic Officer Leader Course and play in the NFL.

Meanwhile, 2LT King continues to balance life as a Soldier and student-athlete, to be the best warrior-athlete he can be for both of his teams.

“I think there are a lot of great lessons and values the military can give you to help prepare you to be a student-athlete,” he says. “Working together as a cohesive team in the military to accomplish a task or mission can be directly carried over to sports, to help lead and bring teammates together to work toward the common goal we have of being conference champions and successful on the national scale.”

2LT King also credits his military experience for giving him the tools to handle time management and prioritize tasks.

His experience may have influenced his younger brother, Chance, who also enlisted. His brother, a Private First Class, earned recognition as a distinguished honor grad after completing basic training. He’s now at Advanced Individual Training to learn skills for his job as a 14G Air Defense Battle Management System Operator.

“Chance thinks very highly of me, as I do of him, and he has the same drive to go above and beyond expectations that are set for him,” says 2LT King. “I couldn’t be more proud of him and the success he has had early in his career.”

2LT King has set an example for his brother as he finds success on the football field, in the classroom, and in the Ohio Army National Guard.

The Army National Guard gives you the opportunity to pursue an education or civilian career while serving part-time in your home State. With positions in more than 130 career fields, ranging from Intelligence to Police and Protection to Munitions, 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 Stephanie Beougher, Ohio National Guard, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil on Jan. 1, 2020.

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Guard Soldier’s Desire to Do More Leads to Dream Job Training Dogs

They say, “do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

For Sergeant (SGT) Giovanna Donofrio, this statement holds true as she moves into the sixth year of her military career. She’s turned her passion into purpose, and found a job that she truly loves waking up for in the morning.

At age 20, SGT Donofrio was attending school, but lacked the feeling that she was making an impact. With the desire to do something different with her life, she decided to join the military.

“I needed to do something that made me feel like I was helping people more,” she says. “When I joined, I was pretty excited to feel like I was actually contributing.”

Upon leaving active duty six years later, she knew she wanted to continue her service. She transitioned to the Connecticut Army National Guard, so she could serve close to home and work in the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) she wanted.

“When I was getting out of active duty, I [kind of] didn’t want to because I was going to miss it so much. But now that I’m in the National Guard, I’m still able to do everything I love.”

SGT Donofrio started her military career as a 91B Light-Wheel Vehicle Mechanic, and two years later, re-classed as a 31K Military Working Dog Handler – an MOS she felt passionate about.

SGT Donofrio and Schurkje pose in front of the flag at the Newtown Military Working Dog Kennels in Connecticut.

Connecticut, home to the only National Guard kennel in the U.S., is the perfect fit for SGT Donofrio. She gets to do what she loves by working with dogs, and she’s a wife and mother of three children, so being able to spend time with her family is a priority. Serving in the Army National Guard gives her the flexibility to do both.

“It’s been very beneficial for me. I love what I do, and I love being able to wear the uniform,” she says. “I love my job and being able to go home every day and see my family.”

SGT Donofrio currently works full time alongside her furry partner, Schurkje (pronounced Shur-key), a 6-year-old Belgian Malinois, specializing in drug detection.

“You’re assigned a military working dog, and depending on what kind of dog it is, whether it’s a drug dog or explosive dog, you train with this dog, and you become a team,” she explains. “Then you go out on missions to either find explosives or drugs.”

To become a dog handler, Guard members must attend Military Police training at Fort Leonard Wood for 7 weeks, followed by K9 training at Lackland Airforce Base for 11 weeks, where they learn how to handle a dog. Once complete, they’re assigned a military working dog, and go through a certification process before being able to deploy. SGT Donofrio and Schurkje are currently working toward their certification.

To get certified, Soldiers and their K9s must go through 3 to 5 days of what’s called a Detection Lane – an exercise that tests a dog’s ability to sniff out a hidden training aid, either narcotics or explosives, depending on the type of dog. The handler watches for any change in behavior, indicating the dog has detected the items.

Then they have patrol, which includes controlled aggression, a scout, and a building search, followed by obedience training in an obstacle course, and an exercise featuring gunfire to ensure the K9 won’t act aggressively or shy away if it comes under fire.

SGT Giovanna Donofrio watches as Schurkje hurdles over an obstacle in the obedience course at the Newtown Military Working Dog Kennels in Connecticut.

“As far as Schurkje goes, he is great with gunfire, and just sits there next to me perfectly fine,” boasts SGT Donofrio.

Even though they can’t run missions just yet, SGT Donofrio and Schurkje are given opportunities elsewhere. This past March, in honor of K9 Veterans Day, the pair, alongside other members of the Connecticut Army National Guard’s 928th Military Working Dog Detachment, were presented with an official citation from the General Assembly at the State Capitol, recognizing them for their service. This, she says, has been one of her most fulfilling moments in the Guard thus far.

Not only does she love her job, she also enjoys all the benefits the Guard has to offer. With the Guard’s tuition assistance, she attends school full time, working toward her bachelor’s degree in accounting, and recently, she was able to purchase a new home using the VA loan benefit.

When she’s off the clock, SGT Donofrio enjoys hanging out with her Pomsky (half Pomeranian/half Husky), spending time with her family, painting, going to Zumba, horseback riding, and coaching cheerleading.

The Army National Guard offers the flexibility you need to live a well-balanced life. With more than 130 career options in fields like military police, medicine, and infantry, you, too, can find a job that you love, with benefits that help support you, your lifestyle, and your family. Contact a local recruiter to learn more today.

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