National Guard recruiter shares reasons for service

On the afternoon of Nov. 14, National Guardsmen Thomas Redenbaugh came to the Cedar Falls High School in hopes to recruit future guardsmen. Redenbaugh currently serves as a recruiter and career counselor and is known by his nickname ‘Red’ or ‘Sergeant Red’ by his fellow military men and friends. Here’s a little more information about him and why he decided to come to our school.


Q: What does the national guard do?

A: The National Guard is the only branch of Service with the dual mission of state and federal missions. The governor of the state is actually our boss before the president and has the say in who, where, what, why the National Guard within their state or territory is activated. We can be activated to anything from natural disaster relief to driving buses for school systems as seen in Massachusetts in 2021. We attend the same Basic Training and job training as the U.S. Army, as we are a branch of the Army; however, when National Guard Soldiers complete the IET (Initial Entry Training) they are not sent to an Army base located around the world. They return to their state/territory and continue their service part-time as a citizen-soldier with about 40-50 days a year spent training, and the remaining time they live a completely normal life. We can deploy overseas in a federal capacity, just like the active duty Army, but we are not utilized as often due to our part-time status.

Q: Why did you decide to join the national guard?

A: I always knew I was going to serve. My grandpa spent time in the service and a couple of my uncles. Whenever I took the career quizzes in elementary/middle school, it would come back, “military, FBI, law enforcement.” I have always appreciated the idea of being part of the team standing ready to protect my friends and family along with strangers if need be. I never looked at military service as going to invade some country and overthrow them but more as an opportunity to protect the values and principles of a free society.

Q: How did you join the national guard?

A: I actually was attending MFL Mar-Mac when I joined the National Guard. A recruiter came in to PE, and he mentioned being able to join as a 17-year-old junior during his spiel about the National Guard. My 17th birthday was that day, and two weeks later I was at MEPS in Des Moines and enlisting into the Guard. I went to basic training that summer at Ft. Benning, Ga., and then moved back to Lansing to graduate with my friends at Kee High before attending infantryman school after I graduated.

Q: Why did you decide to come to our school? Why were you chosen to come to our school?

A: The Iowa National Guard carries around 60 recruiters at any given time. Cedar Falls just happens to be within my assigned area. When I made the move from Training NCO to Recruiter the first time in 2018, I had said I wanted to be located where I was living, which was Cedar Falls, and a position happened to be open. When I was asked to come back to recruiting earlier this year, part of the conditions were getting my old area back. Most of the staff, teachers and coaches I worked with previously are still in those schools, and it made the transition back very easy for me. I live in Cedar Falls, actually a couple houses away from several of the CFHS staff members and teachers, and it feels like friends and family more than high school staff when I’m meeting with folks. It’s great.

Q: What do you want to tell students about the National Guard?

A: I generally tell students that the National Guard is an awesome way to serve, but doing it right here in Iowa just like a volunteer firefighter or reserve police officer. Same training, equipment and uniforms as the Army, but we (National Guard members) have other stuff to do. Our ranks are filled with college students, teachers, firefighters, police officers, healthcare workers, coaches, community members that volunteer, etc. Great people. We are people that can multitask, that can maintain physical fitness on our own. We are goal and passion driven, and most of all, we want to be trained, able bodied and available if something happens and our community, state or country needs us.

Q: Why do you think the National Guard is important?

A: The National Guard serves a vital role in our country’s defense as a trained reserve force but more importantly offers an opportunity for individuals to join and create their own story to share and be proud of. Earning the title of soldier is not something everyone can or wants to do. I remember my time on flood duty in Burlington, Iowa, in 2008, standing arm in arm with community members, and that was one of the most proud moments of my life still, at only 19 years old. Being thanked by the community members was great, but just knowing I was there and available to help because I made that decision to wear the uniform made everything that was hard up to that point seem worth it. The National Guard is a family. It’s a place for people to experience success and failure in a learning environment. It’s a trusted organization that truly cares about the well-being and success of every one of its members.

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