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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It’s All About the Challenge, the Commitment, and the Camaraderie

When 1LT Lindsey Blare became an officer in the Army National Guard, she wanted a change and a new challenge. So, she traded in her 88M Truck Driver military occupational specialty, commissioned as a 91A Ordnance Officer and headed to EOD school the following year to become an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Officer.

North Carolina Army National Guard 1st Lt. Lindsey Blare of the 430th EOD places ordnance in a blast crater at Range 4D on Fort Pickett, Va., during last year's annual training exercises. One of many training activities, the unit’s bomb technicians practice building and igniting "shots" using a variety of munitions. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class FRANK MARQUEZ

North Carolina Army National Guard 1LT Lindsey Blare of the 430th EOD places ordnance in a blast crater at Range 4D on Fort Pickett, Va., during last year's annual training exercises. One of many training activities, the unit’s bomb technicians practice building and igniting "shots" using a variety of munitions. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class FRANK MARQUEZ

That’s right: detecting, identifying, disarming, and disposing of all types of bombs. Which — decidedly — does not mean cutting the red wire like old TV shows would have us believe.

It’s a stereotype that Blare finds amusing.

“That is job security for me,” she said.

Blare, who serves with the 430th Ordnance Company (EOD), notes that her training is the same as every EOD tech in any other branch of the U.S. military. Ultimately, EOD Soldiers are tasked with disposing of “explosive ordnance.” That can include improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and even weapons of mass destruction, so units like Blare’s can also be called to any biological or chemical event.

The decision to join the North Carolina Guard back in 2005 when she was an 18-year-old, first-year college student was not a difficult one for Blare.

With two retired Marines for parents and her mother continuing her military service in the National Guard up until just last fall, Blare says she’s “been around combat boots my whole life. It was a way to continue college, get job training, and serve my country.”

The flexibility of serving in the Guard on a part-time basis, plus the education benefits, enabled Blare to attend Appalachian State University and earn a bachelor’s degree in Middle Grades Education with minors in math, history, and military science. She did all her Guard training during the summers and between semesters.

When she decided to change jobs, however, it made her parents a little uneasy at first, even with their military backgrounds.

“We had an adult discussion,” says Blare. “But it was my decision, and they supported whatever I chose to do with my career.”

While detonating explosive devices may not be for everyone, Blare says she feels like she’s in her element.

“How many people get to blow things up and get to walk away from it?”

She also likes the camaraderie she’s found as part of the “explosive community.”

“I get to use my mind, I get to use my hands and trust what my team and I can do.”

She’s also looking for a few good EOD techs who are talented “high-speed Soldiers,” or those who are motivated, intelligent, and like to work with unique challenges. New recruits can become 89D Explosive Ordnance Disposal Specialists by attending 10 weeks of Basic Training and two phases of Advanced Individual Training: 11 weeks at Fort Lee, Va., for Phase 1; and 29 weeks at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., for Phase 2 joint training with the Army, Marines, Navy, and Air Force.

Those same unique challenges have taken Blare to a few different places. She has deployed to Qatar. She recently headed up a training team in Moldova, and last year she took part in an officer exchange program in the U.K.

Blare also puts her education degree to work in a full-time position running the Distributed Learning Program for the North Carolina Guard. She’s in charge of managing all the digital classrooms for the State.

As to what’s next, she can’t see herself leaving the Guard “until I stop having fun.”

Her advice for anyone considering joining the Guard is to make sure you can commit to something wholeheartedly and enjoy it, and “use those benefits.”

If you think you’re ready to take her advice, visit the Guard jobs board and get in touch with a recruiter today.

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