By Logan Wells ’15
R.J. Beitz is busy, and not just the average college student kind of busy. The junior from Simpsonville, Ky., is a computer science major, the recruit chair and rush educator for Phi Delta Theta, and an offensive lineman on the football team. This would be a full plate for any college student, but Beitz has one more very important commitment: serving his country.
A member of the engineer core in the Kentucky Army National Guard, he is in training to be a construction engineer, a job that has Beitz spending a lot of time driving military vehicles.
“My great-grandfather did this same job (that I’m doing) in World War II,” he said in a recent interview. “I’ve had brothers, uncles and a lot of people in my family go into the military, so I always felt a strong obligation to service.”
Beitz had to undergo a series of requirements before being eligible to join the Guard after high school. These included taking the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test that measured his knowledge in eight areas, including math, science, word knowledge, electronics, mechanics and auto/shop skills.
He also had to perform minimum physical requirements, including running two miles in under 16 minutes. All this had to be accomplished before being sent to two types of training: Recruitment Sustainment Program, where he learned rudimentary skills like reading rank or land navigation, and Basic Combat Training (BCT).
According to the Guard’s website (nationalguard.com), the first few weeks of BCT is where recruits have to line up their bag in a certain way to see if they can follow instructions, after which they must empty it. If anything not on the list of acceptable items falls out, it is their “first opportunity to see a drill sergeant go ballistic.”
“Well BCT was rough, the mental game they play is brutal sometimes,” said Beitz. “But, all in all, it was actually pretty fun, especially meeting new people, some of (whom) I am still friends with today.”
He takes an hour-long trip to Walton, Ky., one weekend a month for training. In addition, he occasionally has extra training sessions throughout the year.
“I spent the majority of my summer training, and I haven’t had a down weekend since Memorial Day. But, I really enjoy it, and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. It is one of the most satisfying feelings knowing you can help someone else, and through the Guard, I will get a chance to help change people’s lives both overseas and (along) our nation’s borders.”
His training is mostly for his specific job as an engineer, but Beitz also joins in the physical training which consists of quite a bit of distance running. While he believes he made the right choice, Beitz maintains that it is far from easy.
“I get pretty overwhelmed around mid-terms and finals,” he said. “It gets hard sometimes with all of my commitments. I definitely have to prioritize, but it can be very stressful. You throw football in there and my schedule is pretty booked.”
Head football coach Steve Baudendistel called Beitz a hard worker, adding that he had also developed into a great team leader. But Beitz' commitment to the Guard has led to a difficulty with keeping on enough weight over the summer before fall practice begins.
“(Beitz) plays on the offensive line, so we need him to be a lot bigger,” said the head football coach. “He lifts with us throughout the off-season and puts on a lot of weight, but when he’s at guard duty all summer he’s doing a lot of long-distance running. This distance running is tough to do if you’re carrying a lot of extra weight, so he trims down some during the summer, and then we try to bulk him back up when he gets to campus in the fall.”
One of the additional ways in which Beitz’s Guard training and service has paid off is how it has taught him to overcome hardships and push himself toward a goal in all aspects of life.
Another benefit is the Guard’s Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP), in which up to $50,000 of student loans can be repaid.
The people are what he considers one of the biggest rewards.
“I've met people from all across the country and a few people from other countries,” said Beitz. I love getting to know them and learning about their towns. For instance, I still have a really good friend that lives in Montana that I met this past summer. We still talk regularly.”
Though he is not currently on active duty, Beitz is considering making his career in the military. However, his highest concern at this point remains with his education.
“I’ve thought about it being something I do every day but I don’t know yet,” he said. “Right now a college degree is number one.”
His decision won’t be made until his eight-year mandatory service is up, but until then, Beitz will enjoy every hectic second.
Sophomore Logan Wells is in the Business Scholars Program and runs both cross country and track.
Published Wednesday, November 14, 2012