Inside the heart of a wanna-be soldier
By: Crystal Britt
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - Even more American troops are leaving for Iraq every day, and more of our young men and women continue to sign up to serve in the armed forces. The National Guard has something called RSP, or Recruit Sustainment Program. It's unique to the guard and helps prepare recruits for basic training. During that time, the military hopefuls do some soul searching as they try to grasp the true commitment they've signed up for.
They're America's future, standing at attention. That simple stature, one of many firsts for many of recruits at the National Guard Armory in Cape Girardeau. 57 men, 7 women....all divided up in five phases. "Red" meaning beginner. "It's my first time, I don't know what's going to happen 20 minutes from now", said 17-year-old Chad Bradley of Portageville. The youngest are 17 years old. Signing up is a decision still weighing heavily on the hearts and minds of these recruits. "From what I hear. It's going to be hard, but I can deal with it", said 18 year old Bradley Daugherty of Chaffee.
RSP helps the students prepare for what's to come, basic training. "It's a preparatory program for all new soldiers who haven't had prior experience coming into the guard", said Staff Sergeant Rodney Sebaugh-RSP Coordinator. Sebaugh's a 17 year veteran of the guard. "Right now is where we set the tone for their military career", said Sebaugh. It's a career for many that starts now. They come from different walks of life. With each step, they're reminded of their motivations. "Chance to do something with my life", said Daughtery. "To get a head start on my future, and I think this is the best way to do it", said Bradley. "To better my life. Something I've always wanted to do. I almost signed up between my junior and senior year, but waited, and I'm ready now", said 22 year old Josh Rehkope of Perryville. "I'm here for college mostly", said 19-year-old Christian Arnold of Poplar Bluff. The perks are a big factor. "A typical soldier that enlists gets a $20,000 signing bonus, for enlisting. They're education is paid for up to their four year degree", said Staff Sgt. Sebaugh. There's other benefits like health care. For others, the reasons run deep within their families. "My grandfather was a command Sergeant Major in the Army", said 27-year-old Paul New of Jackson. "I've been around the armed forces my whole life. My dad was in the Air Force, my grandpa was in the Air Force", said 17-year-old Mikel Brown of Sikeston.
Besides tradition, and money for college there's a stronger objective, one likely to carry the men and women through the toughest moments, moments when the future soldiers are pushed to the limit both physically and mentally. "I love my country, it's that simple", said 40-year-old Cathleen Byrnes of West Plaines. "I've always wanted to help people out and in the Army National Guard you can do that and you can fight for your country", said Mikel Brown.
Patriotic duty is something many feel so deeply...the pain of perseverance seems non-existent. They're all very much aware of the "what if" that signing up could mean heading to war. It's a place where the reality of American casualties is evident in daily news headlines. "It doesn't scare me. If I have to go over there, I'll go over there. It's just one of those things that comes with serving your country", said Josh Rehkop.
The RSP program has proved successful, not only to the Missouri National Guard, but nationwide. Those recruits know exactly what they're getting into before they even head to basic training.
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