“It is a proud privilege to be a soldier – a good soldier … [with] discipline, self-respect, pride in his unit and his country, a high sense of duty and obligation to comrades and to his superiors, and a self-confidence born of demonstrated ability.”
― George S. Patton Jr.
Service to my country has been an important part of my life since I was a young adult. In 1989, at age 17, I joined the Illinois Army National Guard. I completed my basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, the summer between my junior and senior years of high school, and then infantry advanced individual training in the summer of 1990. During my 12 years with the Guard, I served as an infantryman and an anti-tank missile gunner. In 1995, I switched to field artillery, serving as a battalion ammunition section chief for a few years before transferring to the Camp Lincoln Regional Training Institute as a certified U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) instructor. In that position, I taught field artillery-specific training to sergeants who were preparing for the promotion to staff sergeant.
Joining the Army at such a young age taught me a lot about myself. To me, basic training was 90% mental and 10% physical. You learn what you can accomplish if you can conquer the mental aspect. I took a lot of lessons from that training and have applied them to my personal life and civilian career. For example, during my military radio training, I learned how to speak on a radio in a short and concise manner. We also had to learn the phonetic alphabet. To this day, I can say my Alpha-Bravo-Charlies as fast as I can say my ABCs. This has proven useful when communicating with air traffic controllers and pilots, when necessary, during busy airport projects.
The training I completed to gain my TRADOC instructor certification has also helped immensely. I spent a lot of time learning how to effectively convey class material to soldiers from various geographic locations and educational backgrounds and how to give instruction to a class without reading the class material verbatim. I also learned how to encourage the students to actively participate in the lectures, helping them improve their cognitive learning skills. This has helped me significantly as I train new people for Hanson’s Department of Defense Pavement Condition Index (PCI) field survey work.
I have also been able to use my military background when performing PCI field inspections for Hanson at many of our U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects at military facilities. My Army experience with military protocol and ground situational awareness helps me to know where to go and whom to ask for assistance while navigating (or avoiding) restricted areas on base. This is good knowledge when you are a guest at a client’s busy operation.
I am proud of my service in the Army and equally proud of my part in Hanson’s service to its clients. In retrospect, I had no idea, at age 17, how much my military training would influence my life or enrich my career.
Matt Rinker is a resident project representative at Hanson. He can be reached at email@example.com.