Soldier’s Volunteer Service Embodies ‘Spirit of the National Guard’

OLYMPIA, Wash. – A service member is often born with a strong desire to help others. Whether it’s coaching a child’s sports team, cleaning up the neighborhood, or any number of other community activities, public service is frequently a common trait of those serving in the military, specifically the Army National Guard.

Sergeant First Class (SFC) Nick Van Kirk, a logistics and decontamination Non-commissioned Officer with the Washington Army National Guard’s 10th Civil Support Team (CST), wanted to give back to his community in a different way.

SFC Nick Van Kirk, a logistics and decontamination Non-commissioned Officer with the 10th Civil Support Team and volunteer firefighter with South Bay Fire Department, talks with his two commanders before a ceremony on Oct. 10, 2019, in Olympia, Washington. (Photo by Joseph Siemandel).

Growing up in the South Bay community of Olympia, Washington, SFC Van Kirk lived down the street from the South Bay Fire Department.

“I had wanted to be a volunteer firefighter for a while, giving back to the community I grew up in,” he recalls. “Being a full-time active Guard member, I wasn’t sure if I would have that chance.”

He got his chance three years ago when his Unit switched from a five-day workweek to a four-day, 10-hour-a-day schedule.

“The schedule switch gave me the opportunity to go for it, and the leadership with the Civil Support Team supported it.”

Becoming a firefighter and emergency medical technician (EMT) takes time and requires the individual to volunteer a certain number of hours to earn required certifications. However, being a full-time member of the 10th Civil Support Team and responding at a moment’s notice to support local law enforcement and first responders also requires a lot of time and energy.

“The training for both firefighting and EMT is time-consuming,” says SFC Van Kirk. “My command supported everything about me volunteering with South Bay.”

Volunteering with South Bay hasn’t hindered SFC Van Kirk’s work at the CST.

“He probably volunteers 40-50 hours a month with the fire department,” says CST First Sergeant (1SG) Paul Gautreaux. “He never misses a day of work with us though. He is even there on Mondays getting our folks and gear ready for the week ahead.”

This past Fourth of July, SFC Van Kirk put his training, both with the fire department and the CST, to use during a critical situation. That morning, he and other members of the South Bay team responded to a call involving a driver missing a turn and hitting two small children who were playing on the shoreline.

“We got to the scene first and the two children were injured pretty bad, so we immediately called for additional EMTs, contacted the hospitals, and got everything organized quickly,” he explains, adding the two children were rushed to a local hospital at the time, and “are doing great today.”

SFC Van Kirk received praise from his station leadership for his work.

“Nick was our only volunteer who stayed on for the additional shift,” says John Clemons, medical service officer with the South Bay Fire Department. “He organized the sub-units to the incident and helped save the lives of two little ones. He is a real asset to our station.”

The dedicated Soldier is also an asset to the CST. “He [SFC Van Kirk] is like so many in the organization,” says Major (MAJ) Wes Watson, commander of the CST. “They are the quiet professionals, volunteering their own time to help others. It’s just the spirit of the National Guard.”

Serving the community is one of the many values of the Army National Guard. By serving part-time, Guard Soldiers are given the flexibility and opportunity to pursue their passions, whether it’s volunteering at home, getting a degree, or working a civilian job. With careers in fields like engineering, medicine, and police and protection, there’s no limit to success in the National Guard. To explore available opportunities, browse the job board or contact a recruiter to learn more!

From an original article by CPT Joseph Siemandel, Washington Army National Guard, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in November 2019.

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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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