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Brooks Schild

If you mention Brooks Schild’s name in the Yankton community, some may think of “Mr. Schild,” the Yankton Middle School science teacher. Others, however, know him as First Sergeant Schild for Bravo Battery.

Schild’s military career began more than a decade ago when he was living and teaching in Council Bluffs, Iowa. A married 27-year-old with one child and another on the way, he sought a way to better provide for his growing family.

While he may have initially joined the National Guard for the money, he quickly realized there was a lot more to it than that.

“The sacrifices you have to give to be in the military are a hard thing,” he said. “Deployments are rough, and we lost some good people in our deployments, including my little brother.”

Schild was deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, from June 2005 to September 2006 and to Kuwait from April 2009 to April 2010. He has also gone out on flood duty three times — twice to Iowa and once in South Dakota during the Missouri River flood in 2011.

“The reason I’ve stayed in (the National Guard) so long is because of how I can serve my country and still be a teacher and a coach,” he said.

He’s also had the opportunity to learn about leadership in ways he might not have been able to otherwise. “I’ve had years of leadership training by being in the Guard and learned how to deal with people and stressful situations and how to evaluate situations and risks,” he said. This type of training makes veterans more eligible for jobs as opposed to those who haven’t gone through any kind of military training, he added. “Veterans have had to work through things that a normal person might have never had to,” he said.

As first sergeant for Bravo Battery, his job is to support the commander in charge, make sure the soldiers are trained properly and that their needs are met. It’s also important for recruits to understand that their job is to support and defend the U.S. Constitution, Schild said. He has encountered other people from all walks of life who are as committed to this goal as he is.

“It has given me a lot of exposure to diversity,” he said. “It’s pretty cool we can all come together for the U.S. Army.”

He knows that American citizens are appreciative of what veterans do for their country, and has seen no clearer evidence of that than the way South Dakota treats its veterans.

“The hospitals and clinics we have for the VA in South Dakota do a great job,” he said. “I hardly ever hear anyone say they didn’t like one of the places. That’s not how it is in other states.” He’s learned even more about this since he was recently appointed to serve on the state Veterans Commission.

“I was out in Hot Springs visiting the South Dakota veteran’s home and saw what a fantastic facility it was and how many veterans it serves,” he said. His new role also allows him to be part of developing plans, one of which involves having a national military cemetery constructed on the east side of the state. “Our mission is focused on making sure we’re in line with what the Department of Veterans Affairs commission was originally set up for,” he said.

Schild is still very much present in his role with Bravo Battery, which is currently on a high level of alert that started in October and is set to end next September. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean soldiers could be deployed, he said.

“What that does is give us the money, or allocation, so we can train to a higher standard so if we were to get called, we’d be ready for deployment at any time,” he explained. “We were close to this same level of readiness a few years ago and we weren’t deployed.”

For now, the South Dakota Army National Guard is providing assistance to wherever it’s called in the country. Just recently, it sent four soldiers and two water trucks to Puerto Rico to assist in hurricane relief. “You don’t get much more satisfaction than being able to help people at their lowest point,” Schild said.

When his middle school students express interest in possibly joining the military, he encourages them to serve where they want, he said. “I tell them if they join the military,they’ll have a job that challenges them that is also the most rewarding job they’ll ever have,” he said. However, he admits that he has some favoritism towards the South Dakota National Guard.

“We’re a prideful state with great citizens that back our military,” he said. “South Dakota National Guard would do anything for us and our families.”

Being in the military has made him a stronger person and opened his eyes to the sacrificesmade by soldiers and their families, he said.

“My little brother, Rich, would say that he was proud to wear the uniform and serve following those who had gone before him,” Schild said, referring to his brother, who diedin Iraq in 2005. “We’re following along those veterans’ footsteps trying to do the same job they did. It’s a prideful thing to put on your uniform, look in the mirror and see that you’re a member of the U.S. Army and the South Dakota Army National Guard, and that you’ve done missions that some people may never do.”