VOLK FIELD, WISCONSIN (06/09/2017) (readMedia)-- After several days of training, a handful of Soldiers with the 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade based in Normal, Illinois, were afforded the opportunity to re-enlist in the Illinois Army National Guard (ILARNG) and be part of a unique mission. Staff Sgt. Chris Garza of Chicago, and Spc. Jacob Gray of Pontiac, Illinois, were among a handful of Soldiers to re-enlist while at Volk Field, Wisconsin at annual training, June 7.
Garza, who has been in the military for 19 years and is a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear noncommissioned officer, originally enlisted for his patriotism. Having served in multiple branches including the Navy, Active Duty Army and Reserves, Garza joined the ILARNG for the remaining years of his career.
Garza had many reasons for joining the ILARNG, but one reason in particular stood out the most.
"One (reason) is the Soldiers, the camaraderie," said Garza. "I get to train new Soldiers. I get to motivate them, inspire them and encourage them to keep on going. Not just in the military, but in civilian life."
The Soldiers who re-enlisted were granted a 30-minute ride in a helicopter over Volk Field and Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.
While this was not Garza's first time on a Black Hawk, Gray could not have been more excited, as it was his first time.
"I think it's awesome. I wasn't expecting it...it almost seems like a once in a lifetime chance," said Gray.
Gray, who has been in the Illinois Army National Guard for five years and is an air defense battle management systems operator, said he originally joined the military for something new and unique. Gray chose to re-enlist because he enjoys the military life and the structure. He also said taking a break from his civilian job to serve with his peers, who are motivated and have the same mindset, is another reason he chose to re-enlist.
Photo Cutline 1: Capt. Timothy McDuffie of Bethalto, Illinois, the company commander of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, reads the oath of enlistment while the Soldiers raise their right hand; (left) Sgt. 1st Class Corey Ginger of Rockford, Illinois; (center) Staff Sgt. Chris Garza of Chicago; and (right) Spc. Jacob Gray of Pontiac, Illinois all with the 404th MEB based in Normal, Illinois, re-enlist while in Volk Field, Wisconsin at annual training, June 7. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Aleah Castrejon, Public Affairs)
Photo Cutline 2: Sgt. 1st Class Corey Ginger of Rockford, Illinois, Staff Sgt. Chris Garza of Chicago, and Spc. Jacob Gray of Pontiac, Illinois, all with the 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade based in Normal, Illinois, raise their right hand in the air while on a helicopter with the American flag in the background, during annual training at Volk Field, Wisconsin, June 7. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Aleah Castrejon, Public Affairs)