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[Interview Begins]

SPRAGUE: Today is July 7, 2022. This is an interview with Laura Beckel, who served the United States Army National Guard from 2010 to 2015. This interview is being conducted by Luke Sprague at the public library in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, as part of the I Am Not Invisibile Project for the Wisconsin Veterans Museum Oral History Program. No else is present in the room. Okay, Laura, tell me a little about where you grew up.

BECKEL: I grew up in a small rural town in Colorado called Keenesburg. Very country town, I always joked that our high school was in the middle of cornfields. We were surrounded by corn fields. Very country.

SPRAGUE: Okay, cool. So, cornfields, was it like Wisconsin at all, with 00:01:00cornfields or? Tell me about it.

BECKEL: It was very different, it was very flat. Everything out there, way down in the plains, not in the mountains. Very flat, you could see for much farther than you can here in Wisconsin. And much drier.

SPRAGUE: Okay, yep.

BECKEL: Very dry. [Sprague laughs] No humidity like there is here.

SPRAGUE: Yep, I know how that goes. [Beckel laughs] So, if you don't mind what did your family do in Colorado?

BECKEL: When I was young my family we did farm. We had quite a few different farms. We grew sugar beets, corn, and wheat. Some were dry, some were watered, you know, sprinklers or ditches, that kind of stuff. When I was about ten or elven, sold the farming part, but my dad was a diesel mechanic for Caterpillar--still is. My mom was a pre-school teacher, she is now a special ed 00:02:00aid. Grandpa works for Union Pacific, retired from Union Pacific now.

SPRAGUE: Was that a big transition when you went from farming to those other roles, they were the same time but, selling the farm?

BECKEL: It was a huge transition, 'cause that's what my family, my great grandparents, everybody before that all farmed in Colorado. Hit some harder times--farming is not guaranteed that your crops are going to be profitable. So, it was time for a change. So, it was a pretty--I remember clearly the day that our last tractor left when we sold it, and it was the Versatile, one we had forever and ever, and me and brother we stood in the yard and cried as we watched the last tractor go. So, it was a change.



BECKEL: Big change for sure.

SPRAGUE: Okay, so in thinking about this, did you have grandparents, grandmothers, or grandfathers that served in the military or?

BECKEL: One of my grandparents did, my mom's dad. He was in the Air Force as a photographer.

SPRAGUE: Oh, really?

BECKEL: I don't know the years that he served. He's got to be, he's almost eighty now, and he was twenties or thirties.

SPRAGUE: Mm-hmm.

BECKEL: When he served.

SPRAGUE: When did he serve?

BECKEL: I think probably, let's see, if he's eighty, and it's sixty years ago, so probably fifties.


BECKEL: 1950s. Not a lot of conversations I've had with him with about [Sprague laughs] his time serving. Not something that he talks about a lot, so.

SPRAGUE: Yeah, that happens with veterans.


BECKEL: Yep. [Sprague laughs]

SPRAGUE: Okay. If you are okay with it, would be okay with mentioning his name for the record? Or not?

BECKEL: Yeah, Dennis Holland.

SPRAGUE: Okay, cool, that we have him going forward and at least know of this person and their service. Okay, cool. Okay, you're in Colorado, tell me about going to school there, grade school, high school?

BECKEL: I went to Keenesburg Elementary School until a charter school opened up, which my mom actually helped, you know, start the committee and all that kind of stuff to open the school. Cardinal Community Academy, went there through elementary school, until junior high which was one central junior and senior high school, until which would have been my junior year. So, first year for freshmen through--not junior year. I messed that up.


SPRAGUE: That's okay.

BECKEL: [Laughs] Junior high school and high school. Once it hit high school, which was freshmen year in Colorado, we had a brand new high school to go through. So, I was the first class to go all four years through the high school, called Central High School. We were the Rebels.

SPRAGUE: Wow, the Rebels [Both laugh].


SPRAGUE: Cool name.

BECKEL: Yep. It's been fought a little bit, but they are still the Rebels right now.

SPRAGUE: Okay, that works. In going through the high school, at some point you're thinking about the military or joining it. What was the kernel of that beginning?

BECKEL: So, all the different branches used to have tables set up around the lunch area, you know, once or twice a week. Recruiters sitting out there giving seniors their options. And one day I stopped and started talking to a few of them. Started talking to the National Guard one--knew a couple people that had graduated previously to me that had joined the National Guard and heard about 00:06:00the school benefits and just the on the job training of; I knew I wanted to go into the medical field at that point. Instead of going to school, I could join and get my training that way and serve our country with it. So, to me that was a pretty big draw. Being National Guard I would be able to serve more stateside, yes, still could have been deployed. Serve stateside, get that training and then do whatever other schooling I wanted to do, also.

SPRAGUE: So, this was 2010?


SPRAGUE: It's got to be, when you started thinking about it, maybe 2009? 2008? Somewhere in there?

BECKEL: Yep, so, I graduated in 2010. I actually joined during my senior year.

SPRAGUE: Mm-hmm. So, you were talking about deployment, so at that point with the National Guard, that would have been a real thought in terms of if the unit was going to get deployed.


BECKEL: Oh for sure.

SPRAGUE: So, how did you think about that? Yeah, you're going National Guard, but [laughs].

BECKEL: I honestly looking back at it now I feel like, okay, well, not feel, I know that I was one of the lucky ones to not go. But I feel, like I also look at that I was young and dumb and felt invincible. That if I would've gone, that even then I would have been of the lucky ones, you know, invincible. I think everybody feels young and dumb and invincible at some point.

SPRAGUE: Yep. Okay.

BECKEL: I was okay with it.

SPRAGUE: I'm sorry. Yeah. So, what did your family say when you come back to them, [Beckel laughs] and you told maybe your parents what you were thinking about doing?

BECKEL: They were not onboard at first, very much so. My mom, especially dad, dad was like "Okay, this got--" I think he said the words, "This is a phase, or 00:08:00you don't want to join like this," [Sprague laughs]. And it took a couple months convincing. And my dad--I was seventeen when I joined, so had to have one of them sign with me. Mom said for the longest time, "Not doin'it, not doin' it, not doin 'it." Dad finally said, "Okay, I'll sign," and so then mom said "Okay, I'll sign." 'Cause she wanted to be the one to sign versus dad, but she didn't want to be the one to sign. And she finally agreed on her birthday. It was [both laugh] she signed the paperwork on her birthday, March 19 of 2010.

SPRAGUE: Huh, okay. Did you have any, just knowing what had happened, and you would have been old enough during 9/11.


SPRAGUE: Was that in the back of your head at all? Or thinking about that, and then people of course at that point deployed forward in Iraq and Afghanistan?

BECKEL: For sure. I mean that's where I would have been going is still helping 00:09:00Iraq and Afghanistan, that kind of stuff. When 9/11 happened, I think I was in first grade. Everybody kind of remembers that day--


BECKEL: --when it happened. Was in first grade, and sure, we always thought about it, and it was in the back of my mind, but so many veterans had already gone and fought for us that it wasn't all that scary to me that I wanted to help with that also.

SPRAGUE: Mm-hmm. You talked about that a little bit during the pre-interview. You talked a little bit about--and it's not the gotcha moment--it is wanting to make a difference, make a contribution. Can you flesh that out for me a little bit more maybe?

BECKEL: I always like to help people make a difference, do something, make purpose of what you are doing, everyday. Make a difference in something, whether it's something small and making somebody smile that day or serving our country 00:10:00as so many have before us. If being a medic can make a difference and helping somebody over there and saving somebody and helping them come home, that's a huge difference.

SPRAGUE: What, in terms of your thinking process, what was your thought process in terms of going Guard versus just going on active duty? What?


SPRAGUE: Or did you not even?

BECKEL: I never really considered active duty. Yes, now I have left the state of Colorado, which couple months later my mind changed. But at that point, I always got so wanted to be in Colorado and didn't want to, yes of course deploying you know, but coming back to Colorado. After all my training is when I decided, no, 00:11:00I do want to get out of Colorado and see more. Which, I've only made it to Wisconsin. [Laughs] And landed.

SPRAGUE: Yep. Okay.

BECKEL: Not sure if I am hitting your questions or not?

SPRAGUE: No, you are, you completely are.

BECKEL: Just talkin'.

SPRAGUE: No, no that's good. No, yeah it's a tricky question to ask in terms of, so yeah, you wanted to come back and be in Colorado and work out of there and that's fine. That makes complete sense.

BECKEL: I think the school--school was a big push for me, too. My parents had said, "You are on your own for schooling," and loans are very intimidating. So is joining the military. [Laughs] But, ya know, kinda weighed my options and being on active duty and going to school is if not next to impossibible. It's possible, but National Guard and still doing both of it.

SPRAGUE: Right. So, when you enlisted, did you enlist as a combat medic, or 00:12:00whatever the correct title is for that? Or?

BECKEL: Yep, 68-whiskey [68W] combat medic. When I started talking with the recruiter, I told him I wanted to join, and of course they are pushing, they want you to join. But I told him the only way I am going to join is if I get combat medic. And he waited until the position in one of them came up, one of the units, and that was it. That was all I wanted, something medical but at least, you know, combat medic is what I--I wanted to be.

SPRAGUE: Did you have in your head Army or Navy or Air Force or any one of the branches or?

BECKEL: Army was pretty stuck in my head. I had met with an active duty recruiter and then the Army recruiter. I didn't meet with, with any other branches.

SPRAGUE: Okay. So, were you thinking at that point for a medical or health care 00:13:00career further down the road? Was that part of your thinking or maybe not?

BECKEL: When I was little I always wanted to be a nurse. I always wanted to work in the ER, I guess I kind of like the adrenline a little bit, or liked it. [Laughs] So combat medic, ER, figured coming back out, work for fire department, you know something like that. You know, work with the EMS. That's part of the combat medic is you do get your national registered EMT [Emergency Medical Technician] license for your basic level. So, that part does transfer to civilian side. The rest of medic training, there is no equivalent of civilian licensing or training.

SPRAGUE: Okay. So, help me out here. So, you go to basic training, tell me your experience there? What's that like?

BECKEL: [Laughs] Goin' through it, it was heck. But looking back now, 00:14:00it--honestly, a lot of stuff was fun. Different experiences changed me entirely, which I think is kind of the point. Break you down and build you back up to be better person or more responsible. Changed--definitely changed me a lot for the better. Goin' through it, yeah, miserable, but was definitely a fun experience. Learned a lot life lessons, lot of life skills.

SPRAGUE: What were some of the life lessons that you learned?

BECKEL: I think just goin' responsibility, for sure, responsible for your own actions. But also looking out for others and taking care of everybody around you--your battle buddies--you are never alone. You always gotta take care of 00:15:00everybody around you also. It is not all about you.

SPRAGUE: Where did you have basic and what was it like there?

BECKEL: So, it was Fort Jackson, South Carolina. [Sprague laughs] I left on July 7, 2010. So I was there from July through September, when it was miserably hot and humid and nothing but sand and ants. [Both laugh] Very, very, very hot. It didn't matter if you just got out of the shower and walked outside, you were dripping in sweat. Come out, all the time. It was just very hot.

SPRAGUE: What were the DIs [drill instructors] like?

BECKEL: I think for our platoon, our drill sergeants were pretty awesome. Other platoons, I remember feeling thankful, like okay, I'm that one is not mine. 00:16:00[Both laugh] We had drill sergeant Brown, drill sergeant Tucker, and drill sergeant Strikheart. Drill sergeant Tucker was our main platoon drill sergeant, and I was platoon guide. So, he was very very hard on me, but he also explained a lot to me, and some people took that as being easy on me. One day his daughter decided to come and visit him. And they all thought that I looked just like his daughter. "How easy is it--you look just like his daughter--." No, [laughs] I did not see it, but I respected him a lot, all three of them. Drill sergeant Tucker has since passed on. But he was pretty influential, but drill sergeant 00:17:00Strikeart, she was awesome. She was always trying to play tricks on us. [Sprague laughs] Tryin', you know, get you to do something you're not supposed to do but make it seem like it's okay. But then you do it, and it's all over.

SPRAGUE: Were you in old barracks or were you in new barracks at Fort Jackson?

BECKEL: New, new ones.

SPRAGUE: New. Oh, okay.

BECKEL: When we were going through the last cycle that was going to use the trailers was in the those trailers, after that cycle the trailers were done and everybody had been moved into--

SPRAGUE: --the good stuff--

BECKEL: --the new ones.

SPRAGUE: Wow, so you remember your DIs names. Huh, that's pretty cool.

BECKEL: All three of them.

SPRAGUE: It sounds like you had some really good mentorship there--in those roles. Wow, okay.

BECKEL: Mm-hmm, yeah.

SPRAGUE: Did you make any friends outside of your DIs? That you remember or that you talk to or communicate with?

BECKEL: It's been a while since I've communicated with any of them, I guess 00:18:00directly. There is always Facebook. So, friends with quite a few of them on Facebook and see stuff that happens, but not on a communicating basis.

SPRAGUE: Any unique experiences happen at basic that stick out--you know, you have these things that happen to you and you're like, "I remember that."

BECKEL: Well, one cool one was at graduation. My parents and my youngest brother came out to watch. My youngest brother Timmy was four, and on family day, took him to the PX and I got him a set of ACUs, so he [Sprague laughs]. So you know, little bitty kid's ACUs. And he wore them to my graduation, and the post 00:19:00commander was there and saw him walking around and went up to him, because he was just a little guy wearing ACUs, shook his hand and gave him a coin.

SPRAGUE: Oh my god.

BECKEL: Four years old, gave him a coin, after, you know, the ceremony, he comes running up to me, "Laura, Laura, Laura, look what I got, look what I got," and shows me the coin. I'm like, "That's really really cool. I'm like, "I want you to come show to this to drill sergeant Tucker. Like this is pretty cool." And wanted to introduce him to drill sergeant Tucker. Gave him the coin, showed it to him and, "Look at this." He goes, "That's really cool. Do you want it back?" He's like, "Yeah." He's like, "You're goin' to have to give me twenty push-ups if you want this back." [Sprague laughs] And he looks at me, and he's so scared 'cause he was nervous to go up to talk to him to begin with. He's like, "I don't want to." I'm like, "No, let's go show him, come on." He's like you gotta do the pushups. "I can't." "Okay, I'll get down and we'll do twenty pushups together and you can get your coin back." He says, "Okay." So, we got down and did twenty pushups, and he got his coin back.


SPRAGUE: Wow. And that was probably the post commander's coin too, I would bet.

BECKEL: Yep, yep.


BECKEL: Yep, I have it at home. I don't remember his name, to be honest with you, but.

SPRAGUE: Probably a couple of stars, one or two or three or.

BECKEL: I think he was three.

SPRAGUE: Three, yeah, wow. Or she.

BECKEL: It was a he.

SPRAGUE: It was a he, okay. What were some of the toughest challenges you faced at basic?

BECKEL: Well, I do not like heights, so the tower and rappelling down forty-five feet or forty feet was [laughs] pretty intimidating to me. I sat on the top of that tower for what felt like forever. It is was probably like five minutes with them yelling at me like, "You're going to go down one way or another, whether you chose to start going down on your own or--"


BECKEL: "--we're helping you over the edge." [Both laughing] "It's happening."


SPRAGUE: Did you have an time for fun at all at basic or not?

BECKEL: [Laughs] So, I was there over Labor Day, and Kid Rock was there to do a concert on campus. Yes, for Labor Day. September 5, or something like that, September 6. And it was supposed to a free concert for everybody on post. So, we were told, it was even put out to,'cause we didn't have to do anything on Labor Day Weekend, it was going to be three days off. But three days, in quotations, off. [Both laugh] But we were told that we could, in quotations, go to the concert if we chose. If you choose to go and you come back, you're gonna pay for it once you get back.


BECKEL: Being smoked, pushups, situps, you know, whatever it is.

SPRAGUE: Ohhh. Yeah.

BECKEL: There was gonna be two separate sections at the concert. Those for you 00:22:00know for active duty or permanent stationed and then everybody in training. So there was a fence--


BECKEL: --couldn't get to regular people. [Both laugh] Still stuck with us. And nobody was signing up to go. I didn't sign up to go. That not goin' to happen. Well, first sergeant got wind of that and comes in and its like, "Okay, this is a free Kid Rock concert on your weekend off. Why does nobody want to go?" He kind of got the hint that we were told okay we could go but don't go. And then, "No, I am making this clear to you now that you guys can all go. You will not face repercussions for going to the concert." So, got to go to a Kid Rock concert while in basic training.

SPRAGUE: Wow. [Both laugh] I did not expect that.

BECKEL: No, it was craziness But we got to go, and we did pay hell for it when 00:23:00we got back. [Both laugh] I think we all had like ten bucks or something like that 'cause we had our little cards that you could go to the PX and get money from, you know, and get your basic supplies. You're able to take ten dollars with you, and there was one cart there that had couple little pizzas and maybe a couple of sodas you could pick from and a couple of candy bars, not crazy, but a couple of things. And they said, "Anything that you eat there, we will make sure that you will see again when you get back."

SPRAGUE: So, for the concert, were you in uniform, or were in civies, or what did they allow you even though you were on the other side of the fence?

BECKEL: We did not have civies, all of those were locked up. I think we went in PTs [physical training uniform].

SPRAGUE: Okay, yeah.

BECKEL: Wow, how did they? 'Cause there's no pictures, there was no cell phones. There was, you know, we didn't have any of that stuff. Okay, we got bused there and bused back. But it was, it may have been uniform or PTs, I can't remember. 00:24:00One of those two.

SPRAGUE: Were the actual buses BlueBirds or were they cattle cars?

BECKEL: Like school buses.

SPRAGUE: Okay. So, you get done with basic, what happens next?

BECKEL: I went to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, for my combat medic's school.

SPRAGUE: How did you get there?

BECKEL: Flew by plane.

SPRAGUE: Out of Columbia, South Carolina? Or?

BECKEL: So there wasn't, I think I actually took a bus from South Carolina to North Carolina I think to Charlotte. And then that's where they had the direct flight from there to San Antonio.

SPRAGUE: Okay. Tell me about the differences, for the civilians, the differences between basic and AIT [Advanced Individual Training] and what that was like? Or 00:25:00lack of differences? [Laughs]

BECKEL: The beginning of AIT not many differences. You know, they really upheld that constant structure of not really making your own choices. Like this is what you're going to do, this when you will be here, [BECKEL pounding the table] you know for how long. You know they kept that up for a little bit and slowly got to earn more, more and more privileges.

SPRAGUE: Was there a time, a number of weeks through where they back that off a little bit? Or?

BECKEL: There was in basic. So ten weeks, it was every three weeks you went from red, yellow, into green, or maybe its backwards, yeah, red, yellow, and green, where you got a little bit more. AIT I don't recall if we had phases or red, yellow, and white. White phase is what you wanted to get to. It's comin' back to 00:26:00me, it's been awhile. AIT I don't remember if there was phases or not. I think there was a certain amount of time before we had our weekends off and could choose what we wanted to do for weekends, and then be able to go off post. But I don't remember the time frame.

SPRAGUE: Do you remember the total length of your AIT?

BECKEL: It was sixteen weeks. So, the first eight weeks was the national registered EMT basic training and then second eight weeks was the actual combat medic training.

SPRAGUE: And if you could, kinda describe the national registry for EMT. What was that, what did that training entail?

BECKEL: So that's your basic EMT license that like most fire departments or EMTs have, like your first level. Where the national register, it is recognized in 00:27:00every state. Where if you were to do just stateside, certain states allow their basic EMTs to do only so many procedures. National registry is going to teach you a little bit more, but then your specific state still may not allow you to do certain things. But it's the nationally recognized, any state will accept that certification to work as an emergency medical technician.

SPRAGUE: Do you happen to remember the unit name that you were, the school house unit that you were in at AIT?

BECKEL: AIT, yep, it was Echo Company, Echo 2-3-2.

SPRAGUE: 2-3-2. Two hundred and thirty second med? Or?

BECKEL: Oh boy, oh boy. I just remember Echo 2-3-2. I could always email it to you--



BECKEL: --I have it on t-shirts and stuff at home, or hoody.


BECKEL: Basic was Alpha, 213 Infantry Battalion, I believe?

SPRAGUE: Alpha Company, when you list off the 213, the second of the thirteenth? Infantry.

BECKEL: Yeah, it was two dash thirteen.

SPRAGUE: Got it. We can find it then.

BECKEL: Infantry battalion.

SPRAGUE: And then the second one, second of the thirty-second is what your--Echo company--


SPRAGUE: second of the thirty-second.

BECKEL: Class Echo two three two 1710. So I think the seventeenth class of two thousand ten? I think that is how that breaks down.

SPRAGUE: That sounds right. We're always curious about that because it helps us 00:29:00place the veterans in their context historically. If we don't have dates we know, "Oh," if she's able to tell us this is where I was, we go, "Oh, you were right there. Okay." Just helps us out. So, the second eight weeks, the combat medics, how is that different. I'm a civilian, I don't know, tell me how that's different.

BECKEL: Sure. Ah, very different. So there is no licensing equivalent of combat medic to civlian side. Whereas we are taught to do anything that's going to save a life in a combat situation. Something happens, so whether that's chest tubes or intubating you know a crike, cricothyrotomy. You know, all stuff that in civilian life only a doctor is going to do or a Ph.D. Basically, a combat medic, your scope of practice is whatever your physican's assistant, or whoever is 00:30:00above you, is going to teach you. So, in training, you know, they teach you how to do sutures and the chest tubes and the crikes and that kind of immediate life saving stuff. 'Cause it could be a very very long time before that patient gets to a hospital. You know, if you are waiting for that doctor to be able to do that, probably not a very high chance. But once you get to a unit, if your P.A. teaches you to do some kind of surgery, then that is your scope of work, you can do that. Civilian side, you'd be in a lot of trouble for doing something outside of your scope of work.

SPRAGUE: And that, that's interesting, you know, that that's the case. That's interesting. Does the training that the PA give you in your unit, and this is a, 00:31:00I don't know the answer to this. Does that go on as an official skill identifier after your MOS? Like you are a 68-whiskey, and then there's a numbers and?



BECKEL: No, because I didn't have any other skill identifiers. It was just, you know, combat medic 68-whiskey.

SPRAGUE: Mm-hmm. Okay.

BECKEL: Which is what makes it so hard to have a civilian equivalent of that same licensing, 'cause--

SPRAGUE: There's not.

BECKEL: --there's nothin'. And that could change unit to unit where you go. You go to another unit and your PA says, you know, he has a list of, "This is the list of the only stuff that you can do." But your previous PA could have had a much bigger list. But, now you are dropped down to the next unit. And your next one could be a way bigger list.

SPRAGUE: Did you, um, did you have any experiences with that, where that happened?


BECKEL: After AIT, I was only in the 135 Medical Company. And that was pretty, that didn't change a whole lot.

SPRAGUE: While you were at training, did you haveany experiences with, like, trauma lanes or anything like that?

BECKEL: [Chuckles] Lots of trauma lanes. All the time, different scenarios, of, ya' know, IEDs going off, fake IED wentoff over here. The coolest one was at the last FTX on a field training exercise. We had two weeks in the field, and it was--every day it was some kind of different scenario for the trauma lane, whether it was a tank that got hit, or a helicopter crashed, or you know, you just, they took on a lot of fire, you know, finding different people all over, just to test your different skills. And you were tested at each single one of 00:33:00those trauma lanes, that you had to pass to be able to get your license. But we had, in the FTX, instead of our amazing manikins that you are always, you know, working on, not all the time. We practiced on each other, most of the time. We had, real, not real-life casualties, but people that weren't being tested that day, they were the casualties for that day. So, they dressed them up in make-up and, you know, made all the injuries on them, fake blood, all that kind of stuff. Did night exercises, where you know, you are working with strobing flashlights, and ya' know, red lights flashing all over the place. We actually had helicopters, you know, that we would actually go to the pick-up points and load our patients onto the helicopter. Couple of us, you know, would jump on with them, fly on over to the landing zone, get 'em into the casualty area. Pretty not realistic, but as realistic as they could, they could make it.


SPRAGUE: What were some of the biggest challenges that you faced during AIT?

BECKEL: I am a terrible test taker. I will absorb all of the knowledge, and I can do it, I can do the hands-on exercises, the trauma lanes, you know, all that kind of stuff. But when you put a piece of paper in front of my face and pick those answers, I get in my head way too much and second-guess and just, I get in my head way too much. And the NRANT exam, all four of those answers could be one hundred percent correct, but you have to pick the best option. So that makes it, they are trying to set you up for failure but wants you to have the best answer.


SPRAGUE: So was there like a recycle process, as in some Army training units, you know, you can no-go, and go back through and go back a phase?

BECKEL: Yeah. Yep, they did have that. For the NRAMT exam, you could take that up to three times before you have to recycle. I did pass on my second one. The first one, did not pass the written exam. All the hands-on stuff, I passed that first time, didn't have to do that again. But the written one, passed the second time.

SPRAGUE: Any experiences during the FTX that you'd like to share?

BECKEL: Um, it's more of a funny story. It doesn't have anything to do with medical or anything like that.

SPRAGUE: That's good. That's okay.

BECKEL: So, women's barracks were around the side of the building that we had. 00:36:00And we had an outdoor stairway to get in there where the gate at the bottom of the stairs locked. So, every day when we were done, we had to wait for one of our sergeants, wherever, to come over and open the gate, and let us to go up into the stairwell and be able to go to our rooms. Well, there was a couple of outside windows there as well that did not have bars on them. So, one day we were waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting and they were not coming with the keys. So, we decided we were just going to put somebody up into the window, so somebody could come down and open the gate, and we'd be in. Well, I was the one they put through the window. Wouldn't you know, right as I am climbing through the window, [chuckles] is when our sergeant comes. So, we were of course in a lot of trouble. We were breaking and entering onto federal property.


BECKEL: [Laughs] Even though it was our own rooms. So, the punishment for me and 00:37:00the other three girls--yeah, there was four of us total--they yelled at everybody because they watched people break into their place. But us four that actually did it, we lost our privileges for that weekend, could not leave. But we had to set up camp outside of our barracks and protect them all weekend. We had broomsticks as rifles. We had to wear full battle rattle. Put up picnic tables, you know, make us a [laughs] you know.


BECKEL: Make us a little foxhole oh, you know, we sat under under picnic tables almost all weekend with our broomsticks protecting, making sure that nobody was going to come and break into our barracks. Until, halfway through the last day, some--a commander walked by. I don't remember where he was from, it wasn't our commander, from somewhere on post, you know, he walks by. And he's like, "What 00:38:00are you guys doin'?" We jumped out, attention, talking to him, told him, "We're protecting. We're making sure nobody's breaking in." "Why do you think somebody's going to break in?" "Well." [Chuckles] Told him the story, and he was so mad that he went and found our sergeants and said that that was not an acceptable punishment. So, we got punished with push-ups and, you know, physical activity, for the rest of [laughs] the afternoon.


BECKEL: Yep, broom sticks and picnic tables.

SPRAGUE: [Sighs] Okay. Um, any memorable people there other than that, that you remember that stick out in your head from AIT?

BECKEL: Ummm, drill sergeants I didn't connect with as much as basic training sergeants. I can remember their faces, but their names have kind of slipped 00:39:00away. Of course, I had friends there, too, but after a time, you know, all those friendships have kind of, just like basic friends on Facebook, see what they are doing, but--


BECKEL: --don't really talk as much any more.

SPRAGUE: Did you find that people--was the entire unit, I'm going to ask, were they reservists and guardspeople or were they a mixture of both and active duty?

BECKEL: It was a mixture of all.

SPRAGUE: And was there--what was the relationship between the two? Was there any? Back in the olden days, before 9/11, it was active duty people looking down, maybe, potentially at guardsmen. What was your experience post 9/11?

BECKEL: I think there was probably that a few like that, but most people, at that time, were all going through the same, same mud, same training, same everything. So, of course, there was jokes back and forth, you know, but not, 00:40:00not a lot of seriousness of, you know, being looked down on.

SPRAGUE: Not only that, the odds that you're going to be on active duty and get deployed are much higher.


SPRAGUE: Yeah. Did--um I assume--were the barracks segregated, where the females were on the top and the males were downstairs? Or what was the, with the locked staircase?

BECKEL: Um. So, the building, I'm showing you on the table like the microphone to see what was going on. [Spraque chuckles] We called it like a starship shape. So we had like, you know, lik Echo company, Foxtrot, and I don't remember if it was Delta, Charlie, Echo, and Foxtrot. But the inside squares off, there was hallways that went through like a plus shape. Those were the males' barracks on the inside. And then around the outside here, it was more like we had six. We had four-man rooms for the women 'cause there was not as many women as there was 00:41:00the men. So, they had a big open base, you know, actual legit barracks, where we had more rooms around the outside.

SPRAGUE: Okay. Was there any, did you have any incidents where you were sexually harrassed, or anything like that?

BECKEL: I did not.

SPRAGUE: Okay. Yeah. Okay.

BECKEL: Thanfully.

SPRAGUE: Yeah. Maybe you had friends who experienced stuff that happened with them or?

BECKEL: Um, [pause] no.


BECKEL: I think we were a pretty good, good, group down there. Um, good battle buddies.

SPRAGUE: Okay, good.

BECKEL: We did have the rule that where, so anywhere you went, you always had to be with a battle buddy. There was no going anywhere on your own. And it was for the longest time, for like our last couple weeks, you had to be with the 00:42:00same-sex battle buddy. So, you couldn't be the only female hanging out with five guys or the only male with five girls. You had to have one or the other same-sex battle buddy with you for that reason.

SPRAGUE: Mm-hmm. Was that unit-wide, base-wide, Army-wide?

BECKEL: As far as I know, it was base-wide for everybody in training, you know, not permanent party.

SPRAGUE: Mm-hmm. Okay. So, you graduate from AIT.

BECKEL: Mm-hmm.

SPRAGUE: You come back to Colorado, or not, or?

BECKEL: Uhh, itt was for about two weeks.


BECKEL: I drove to Wisconsin.

SPRAGUE: Tell be about the decision, tell me about that. You about that in the pre-interview. Tell me about your thought process about coming to Wisconsin.

BECKEL: So, pre-interview I kinda said more "friend", I guess. But I was seeing a guy. He was also, he was from Wisconsin. We were in the same unit down there. 00:43:00I said I wanted to get out more and see more, he was from Wisconsin, and I decided, well, I'll go to Wisconsin. That did not work out, but I love Wisconsin. At that point, I love my unit, I really enjoyed being here.


BECKEL: So, everybody always says, "AIT is stupid, it doesn't work." It don't work. [Both laugh] It does not work. But, it's kind of a little bit more of.

SPRAGUE: What, help me out here. AIT doesn't work, tell me, flesh that out for me, 'cause I'm drawing a blank.

BECKEL: So, they always say [tape stops].

SPRAGUE: [Interview resumes] Okay, so, you get to Wisconsin, and tell me about the unit you went to and what that was like.

BECKEL: So, I went to the 135 Medical Company, in Waukesha.

SPRAGUE: Mm-hmm.

BECKEL: Um, very accepting when I got there. Just like, you were always there. 00:44:00Being in, I feel like probably any branch, but the military is your family. It doesn't matter where you go. You're a veteran, you're a veteran, it's your family. It's your brother, your sister, you're--very accepting. It took a little bit to do an interstate transfer because I joined Colorado National Guard and did an interstate transfer to Wisconsin National Guard. So, it did take three months or so until after I got out of AIT once I got here for them to assign me into a new unit.

SPRAGUE: So, did you ever report to a Colorado unit, or not even, just on paper.

BECKEL: I was assigned to one, you know, as soon as I joined, they assigned me to a one, and that's where I was going to come back to. But I never actually--


BECKEL: --went there or met any of them. And I can't even tell you. I don't remember what it was.

SPRAGUE: Okay, no worries. Just curious. I was wondering about that, how that happened.



SPRAGUE: In the 135th, at the time, what was its higher headquarters? Do you remember?

BECKEL: I have been trying to think of that for the last week, of what it was. [Both laugh] And it does not--I think there was eight companies that fell underneath it, but I cannot remember the name of it.

SPRAGUE: So, let me suggest something here. And this is, could it have been the 64th Troop Command or the 641st Troop Command?

BECKEL: Um, those both sound right. [Laughs] It was six ummm--


BECKEL: --[Quietly] Sixth-four? I think it was the 641st.

SPRAGUE: Mm-hmm. That makes--that's what the records show. But I'm asking you as the veteran, because I trust what you're saying more than I do the records. [Chuckles]



SPRAGUE: So, that would have been the 135th Med rolled up under the 641st Troop Command, which then sits under the Wisconsin Army National Guard Command, which is the 64th Troop Command. That sound about right?

BECKEL: Yep, yep, yep.

SPRAGUE: So, while you are drilling with this unit, tell the reader, the listener, what drilling is like, because they don't know. When you go out on the, you know--

BECKEL: Mm-hmm.

SPRAGUE: --your annual training, your drills, and maybe other training that you have that I don't even know about. What's that like?

BECKEL: So, most drills were, you know, you have set things that you have to do every year, certain trainings that you have to do, medical licenses, you have to get so many credits, you know, to keep up with you license. So part of one of the days during the weekend we would do, you know, different medical classes, from a PA or refresher courses, whether it's on, you know, CPR or sutures or 00:47:00whatever that is. Um, but a good chunk of it is also doing preventative maintenance on whatever equipment is due for that month. Whether it's, you know, checking over rifles, checking over different medical equipment, and checking expiration dates on all of our supplies of saline, you know, any kind of medical supplies that we had there, to also preventative maintenance checks on our vehicles every weekend. If something happens, we got to have working equipment to go.

SPRAGUE: Mm-hmm.

BECKEL: So, did a lot of preventative maintenance checks, classes, just making sure that, at anytime, we could be ready to go. Um, AT, good old, went to--why 00:48:00am I drawing a blank on the post that's in. [Laughs]

SPRAGUE: In which state?

BECKEL: Fort McCoy, Fort McCoy, yes, we would go. There's the Air Force base that's a little south of Fort McCoy, too, we would go there occasionally.

SPRAGUE: Volk Field?

BECKEL: Volk Field, yep. A couple of our ATs, we went to Volk Field, and we would kind of run the yearly medical checks for all the other, you know, posts, that were--not posts--units, units that would come up, you know, to do your yearly hearing and vision and talk about your life insurance, you know, all that kind of stuff. So, we would run that for a couple of days. Of course, we would go to good old Fort McCoy for fun. Different training exercises, different licensing on different kinds of vehicles that you typically wouldn't have.

SPRAGUE: Did you have to get recertified for your EMT during that time? How did that, how did that play out?


BECKEL: Yup. You have to re-certify every three years, two or three years. Mine's been expired for a little bit now, unfortunately. Every two or three years, but you would do so many credits per year to do that, and then you, like one big course at the end, you know, to keep it all up. Re-do your hands-on training, that kind of stuff.

SPRAGUE: Was your, was your AT ever not at Fort McCoy or Volk Field or any oddball things like you went to NTSC or went to?

BECKEL: Mine was not, um, my unit they did have a couple, um ATs, because not the whole unit would go at once, but a couple of missions to Haiti, um, for two or three weeks, to, to, um, right before I got there they had gone down to, um, Louisiana. What was the big flood in Louisiana, back around that time?


SPRAGUE: Katrina?

BECKEL: Katrina, they did a lot of some, you know, way late, relief at Katrina.

SPRAGUE: Did, um, talking about that, was there, did you, did you miss, did you wish you were there for those deployments?

BECKEL: Yes. I for sure do. I wish I could have helped, um, with some of that kind of stuff. That for Haiti, they only took eight, I think, eight to ten people, out of maybe fifty, sixty people there. You know, so, a couple of those are going to be, you know, our PAs and you know, not, was not high up on that list. Katrina, that was before me. When I got back and heard that they had been down there doing stuff, that was, I guess, a bummer hearing that they had aleady gone, that that there wasn't a plan to go, to go back and help out for that one.


SPRAGUE: Were there any near misses, where there was a possibility of you guys rolling out and you ramped up, but it didn't end up happening, or?

BECKEL: So, we didn't ramp up, but I did nearly miss it. So, we were on a, I think Wisconsin was on a five-year rotation or something like that at that point. So, you know, your first two years are like preparing, the next two years are actually getting, you know, supplied up and everything that you need to go. And the last year is training to be overseas. They were in, like, year three I think when I got there, and something happened with the rotation where that reset, so my first year was actually like their year one.


BECKEL: So, there would have been two more years and we would have gone, but it, at that point I don't know what was going on, just, "Okay." [chuckles] "I guess we're not." But they actually just got back, they did a year deployment, last year.


SPRAGUE: Do you ever think back to whether, oh, you know, it sounds like you wanted that, you wanted that, if you had the opportunity, you would have been like.

BECKEL: I would have jumped.


BECKEL: I look back now and still, I wish they would have think stayed in. But I'm happy now I didn't. I wish I would have stayed in, but I'm serving veterans now. But served more that way, than. Yeah, I don't know where I was going with that.

SPRAGUE: Mm-hmm.

BECKEL: Can we take a small break, so I can use.


SPRAGUE: [Interview resumes] This is Luke Sprague, with Laura Beckel and we're starting segment two of her interview. And this is Luke with Laura Beckel, segment two of our interview. So, Laura we were talking about the service in the Wisconsin National Guard. One of the curiosities that I am interested in. I only served on active duty, and then I was a civilian. What is it like to serve as 00:53:00Guardsman or Guardswoman, and go do that and then come back to the civilian world. How does that. Tell me about that. What's that like?

BECKEL: Um. It doesn't really. Being two or three days out of a month, I guess it doesn't change that much, it's you just don't have a weekend off that month. Or you, you know, don't have, depending what your job is, if you only have weekends off, you know, you are working. When it is your two weeks, you know your annual training, coming back, you know, that one's a little different, because you do put yourself more back into that active duty style.

SPRAGUE: [Chuckles]

BECKEL: I guess not necessarily active duty, like staying in barracks, you know, like staying there and not being at home. Um. That one was a little bit more difficult, but now, I don't feel like it was that long of a time going back and 00:54:00forth to have a, to really make a big, big difference. It's definitely a difference of working with civilians, and other veterans, just the connections that you have with people and why that, I've said it many times, you know the family atmosphere, definitely more fun, military. Civilians, I guess you have to what ya say more a little bit more. But, the military is a little bit more blunt, and you know, say what you are thinking.

SPRAGUE: Yeah. Did you have anybody from you guard unit, and I know it is fairly recent for you, people that you in, experiences that you remember fondly?

BECKEL: People. Um, Stephanie Worden, we both got to the same unit about the same time. She got there a little bit after I did. I lived in East Troy, she lived in Mukwonago, you know we would go have drinks, every once in a while. She 00:55:00did pass two years ago.

SPRAGUE: Sorry to hear that.

BECKEL: But, she was one of the main ones that I was, pretty close with.

SPRAGUE: Mm-hmm. So, what about, um, you got out in 2015 from the Guard. What led to that decision? Or there had to have been a decision at some point.

BECKEL: It was. Um, strangely, I don't like to be told what to do all the time [laughs].

SPRAGUE: [Laughs]

BECKEL: The thing with the military, you gotta like being told what to do. Um, it changed my life in so many ways for the better, if I would not have joined I think my life would have gone down on a very different path. I would not be the person that I am. And it changed me, mainly for the better, and I was happy with, you know, with what I had done. And, decided to not. I didn't wanna. I had 00:56:00been tossing around the idea of moving back to Colorado, and I was almost to the point of being on IRR, Inactive Ready Reserve. When I was going to move back to Colorado, I would have had maybe three of four months left of my active National Guard time before IRR, so, I was going to move back. When you do an interstate transfer and you are not coming right out of training, the way it was explained to me was that you essentially would have to find your own unit. You know, they don't assign you to one, you have to find a place that has an opening and have so many months to do that. Well, I had three to four months left on my active contract, and three to four months to find that unit. Like, you know, talk to my commander at that point and like, you know, just said, "you know, this is kind of what I am facing right now, and like, what are your thoughts on this?" And he 00:57:00had given me the option of, um, just honorable discharge at that time.


BECKEL: Versus doing the two years IRR, finding a unit, being there for maybe a month and then, IRR. And I said okay. I could get out before my full eight-year contract. The last two would have been IRR. A few months short of my six.

SPRAGUE: OK. When you got out, tell me about from active Guard service, where were you at with your civilian career, and what were you doing?

BECKEL: I was working for Lakeland Animal Shelter. Um, doing that fulltime. I absolutely love my job, which was one of reasons I ended up not actually moving back to Colorado. I had the moving trucks all reserved i had everything planned 00:58:00and then two weeks before I said, "I don't, I didn't want to leave Wisconsin." I loved my job, the people I was working with, the family that I had made here. Made my family mad, that I didn't go.

SPRAGUE: Okay. What do you do now, as as occupation?

BECKEL: Now, I work for Wood National Cemetery, the veterans cemetery in Milwaukee. So, we work for the national cemetery administration at Department of Veterans Affairs.

SPRAGUE: And, what's that like?

BECKEL: Well, I serve veterans every day.


BECKEL: But, I work with their families. Because obviously I am not working with the veterans themselves. It can be difficult at times, you know. You know, you connect with people differently. So, there are certain families that, you know, you share an experience with of some sort, and you can just have a bigger connection with them, and you can feel their loss of you know their veteran. 00:59:00Even at that point it can be the spouse, which most of ours is, the spouse is also eligible to be buried with the veteran. We are a closed cemetery, so most of the veterans are already there and it's just spouses coming. But you still hear the veteran's stories, you know, or you share both sides when you are working with these families.


BECKEL: But, serving these families to me is just as important as serving those veterans because families serve as well, or served at some point.

SPRAGUE: So, how did you get that position? I am sure you applied for it.


SPRAGUE: Tell me how you got into that.

BECKEL: It was actually a friend who told me about the position. I saw this on 01:00:00USAJOBS and I just feel it would be something that you would be good at. Lots of customer experience, customer service experience being a prior veteran myself, you know that kind of stuff you just didn't know--I think it'd be a good fit for you. And I was like, I don't want to work in a cemetery. I guess I want to serve our veterans but a cemetery--mmmmm, you know what, what's going to happen if I try, or if I don't try it's never going to happen, but if I try and I don't like it--ok I'm working for the VA, I'm working for veterans, you know, and transfer, transfer into the hospital, do something different. I've been doing that for a year and a half now and it's, so far it's very fulfilling.

SPRAGUE: Wow, okay. Thinking about this as a veteran myself, and doing that as a 01:01:00veteran and being in the--that's got to be a very unique experience being at the cemetery and being involved with that. Did you have any, do you have any days that stick out to you in particular that, you know, that were not that easy necessarily or that you'd be okay with sharing?

BECKEL: Yes. So, a couple of months ago we repatriatized or buried a USS Oklahoma veteran from Pearl Harbor. That one--you know working with that family that has been--he was MIA, or, killed in action, you know, mass burial in Hawaii. They didn't know who was who, you know, when they were finally able to retrieve everybody. Technology was not as advanced until the last five years when they restarted to identify all the veterans in the mass graves there and 01:02:00get them home to their families. That one was pretty powerful because those families, you know, they were missing him--Arthur Ray Thinnes--missing him since--was it 1944 that was Pearl Harbor? '44 I think. You know, for sixty, seventy years, where some of the younger people I'm talking with never even met him but it was their mom's brother that was missing there entire life and heard about him forever and ever and ever--he's their family and they never knew him but they still felt that grief just to--


BECKEL: Patriot choppers came for him. You know, I met him at the airport when he flew--I mean there was just a pretty strong emotional day for a lot of stuff.

SPRAGUE: For the record, how do you spell his family name, or surname?



SPRAGUE: Thinnes with two Ns.


SPRAGUE: Okay. Thinnes. Good. Arthur Ray. Want to make sure we get it right. Okay. Did you--Do you keep in touch with anybody? You mentioned Stephanie Warden who passed. Any other veterans you keep in touch with?

BECKEL: Not super close. Occasional happy birthday or something like that, but not so much.

SPRAGUE: Okay. Any involvement with other veterans organizations [laughs] other than working for the VA during the day?

BECKEL: Other than the VA, no, no. I've been asked a few times to join a couple of American Legions. Keep getting the cards from them. Hey! Hey. Same people is 01:04:00how I was pushed to do I Am Not Invisible! [laughs]

SPRAGUE: Okay.So what do you think meant for you to serve?

BECKEL: It was an honor to serve our country, and an honor to continue to serve our veterans that served us.

SPRAGUE: You talked about it a little bit before. What motivated you to do this interview? [Both laugh]

BECKEL: Well, the interview I was not initially aware that it was a part of it, thought it was the photo shoot. You know a couple of the older veterans there told me about it. Said know it's important for women to be recognized in the military. I said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah." They're like, No, Laura, you should do it. And I said, "I don't want to. I was National Guard. I wasn't active duty. I 01:05:00didn't deploy. You know, my stories are not what these other women's stories, you know, what they have. What they've seen." It doesn't matter. Women veterans. They need to be, you know, recognized, you know. Do it, telling you to do it. Okay, they sent me the information. I didn't sign up. So then they told--Yolanda is her name?

SPRAGUE: Yep, Yolanda Medina.

BECKEL: Yep. So then I got an email from her saying, Hey, [laughter] I was told to reach out to you and let you know this is going on and you should sign up. I said, okay. And then I signed up--and I'm not one to like to do interviews or be put on the spot or do that kind of stuff. And I said, "What! There's an interview, there's more than just my picture and, you know? So kind of pushed into it a little bit, but it was still my choice, wasn't forced to do it. But I do recognize the importance of--and then during the picture part the 01:06:00photographer that day he, Eugene--

SPRAGUE: Gene Russell

BECKEL: Yep--showed me a picture on his phone of, at Arlington, of the Changing of the Guards. It was a zoomed in picture he's like, I just want to show you this. This is why I think it's so important. And picture of the first woman doing Changing of the Guard. And picture of her receiving the rifle. He's like, what do you think? I said, that's awesome that she has got to that point that she can do that. That's really cool. He said, now I'm going to zoom out on this picture, and then tell me what you see. And he zooms out and it's all these teenage girls that are standing behind this barricade. Every single one of them has a cellphone out taking pictures, like the first woman doing Changing of the Guard. Like the role model that she's got to be for those girls. To know all of them taking pictures, smiling, like, oh, my gosh, this woman can do that. You know, and that, once I saw that that kind of put into perspective a little bit more for me of showing these young girls that you can grow up and you can do 01:07:00anything you want to do. You can do anything you put your mind to. So then the interview, you know, that kind of stuff, that made it a little bit more easier for me of. [Both laugh]

SPRAGUE: That's good to hear. Yeah, Gene showed me that picture too. That was [inaudible] talking to everbody there. Gene's a great guy.

BECKEL:Yeah, he was pretty cool.

SPRAGUE: Incredible. Yeah, he's been a big promoter and very, in terms of photography, the last time around and then this time around, and it's really a pleasure to work with Gene.

BECKEL: He's nice. He's pretty cool.

SPRAGUE: Did we miss anything during the interview that you'd like to cover?

BECKEL: Hmm. I don't think so.



BECKEL: I did dislocate my elbow at one AT at Fort McCoy. That was a very very miserable two weeks. Dislocated it two days into AT. Sat in the barracks for another two weeks.



SPRAGUE: In the old barracks or the new barracks?

BECKEL: The old barracks.


BECKEL: Old barracks. [laughter] Yeah. Upstairs, in the middle of summer it was hot!

SPRAGUE: Oh, no! Oh, gosh!

BECKEL: Second day we went out to do the, I can't remember the technical term for it, like the obstacle course--the monkey bars, all that kind of fun stuff, the rope swings, the rope walls, and it had just rained the night before and first one to go through, crawl through the sand tunnel and then you climb up to do the monkey bars with sandy, wet hands and get on monkey bars. Fell right down. Dislocated my elbow. I'm in the ambulance on the way to the hospital cause 01:09:00they didn't want to set it there surrounded by medics, but they said, nope you can go to the hospital for this one. [Laughs] "None of you can pop it in?" Didn't want to; on the way there another girl fell off of the rope wall, climbing up and broke her tail bone. So after two injuries within the first thirty minutes they decided that we're not going to do the obstacle course anymore. [Both laugh] For that day.

SPRAGUE: [laughs] Well that was a good decision.

BECKEL: It's too wet. It's not safe today. Yep. [Inaudible] safety. That's just some thing else that pops in my head.

SPRAGUE: Anything else?

BECKEL: I don't think so.

SPRAGUE: Okay. Laura, thank you for your service.

BECKEL: Thank you.

SPRAGUE: This concludes the interview. Thank you.