Senior prepares to serve country in National Guard

Annie Matheis, News Editor

One weekend a month, senior Michelle Stratman practices marching.

She executes commands.

She runs, does push-ups and sit-ups and learns how to assemble an M-16 rifle.

Michelle joined the Kansas Army Reserve National Guard on Feb. 12.

She said she wanted to serve in the military since researching the Coast Guard in 2nd grade.

“Originally, I wanted to be in it because there were cool uniforms,” she said. “Now, I feel the patriotic duty, especially since it’s sort-of a time of war.”

Michelle’s monthly training weekends are geared towards physical preparation for this summer’s basic training.

“It’s also a little bit of preparation for marching and basic commands, so that when you show up, you are at the top of the class, and the drill sergeants aren’t all up in your face about everything — like they are for everybody else,” Michelle said. “It helps you get promoted faster.”

After doing basic training, which includes more physical training, marksmanship and basic army drills, Michelle will be in advanced training from August to November.

Michelle’s unit is being stationed at a base in Kuwait, where they will complete missions in Iraq. However, since she won’t have completed all of her training, she will not be deployed with the rest of her unit.

Michelle will, instead, attend Kansas State University next spring while continuing drill weekends.

“Since it is only a drill weekend once a month, you can go to college the whole time, plus you get the Montgomery GI Bill, which pays $4,500 a semester for college,” she said. “So, at K-State, pretty much your whole college tuition is paid for.”

In the National Guard, a unit gets deployed every five years, so Michelle will be able to finish college without deployment.

Michelle’s mother Colleen Stratman said she was initially nervous about Michelle wanting to join the military.

“Military equals guns and shooting,” she said. “It is kind of a scary thing to think about your daughter going into that ‘harm’s-way’ sort of career. But I am at peace with it; it is a good choice for her. She will do well.”

Michelle said her favorite part of the National Guard is the camaraderie in her unit.

“In high school, you could just spend your whole life just doing ‘group projects,’” she said. “But, in the National Guard, everything you do has to be done as a team. You have to learn to work with people in a way that you actually accomplish something.”

Michelle said she hopes to gain leadership experience in the National Guard.

“As much as you wouldn’t believe it, I am not actually a courageous person,” she said. “I am actually very shy.”

Colleen said she can see the way Michelle has benefited from training in the National Guard.

“She has already gained such an incredible amount of confidence, just in the few months she has been in it,” she said. “Her confidence has just blossomed. I am really proud of her.”

Colleen said she thinks her daughter was nervous about the end of high school before she made her final decision to join the National Guard.

“She doesn’t like not knowing what she is doing,” she said. “Now that she knows what she is doing, she is looking forward to the end of high school. Not to get out of high school — it’s not like she is tired of high school — but she knows what her future is now.”