Bemidji dad, 41, heads to basic training
Less than two weeks after he turned 41, Scott Schwarzlander of Bemidji will depart today for basic training.
A truck driver who delivers food to the National Guard Armory in Bemidji among other local venues, Schwarzlander said his stops at the Armory inspired him to join the Army National Guard.
"I deliver all the chow there for them," he said. "So I got to know the guys."
He later got his chance to join the National Guard when the maximum age for joining increased from 35 to 42.
"I just thought, 'Well, here's my chance ... to serve my country,'" he said.
While he joined the National Guard a year ago and has participated in monthly drills, Schwarzlander, who had high cholesterol, needed a clean bill of health to attend basic training. Besides taking medication, he changed his eating habits, quit smoking and did some running to get his cholesterol down so he could go to basic training before his 42nd birthday, as required by the National Guard.
"And now I'm healthy, they say," Schwarzlander said.
His mother, Bonnie, and two sons, Thomas, 12, and Gabriel, 5, will take Schwarzlander to Fargo today. From there, he will fly to Fort Sill, Okla., for basic training. After about nine weeks of basic training, he will head to Fort Bliss, Texas, for about five weeks of job skills training. His job, he said, will be driving truck.
"I'm due back just before Christmas if everything goes according to plan," he said.
By attending monthly drills, Schwarzlander said he already has some experience behind him. He said he believes this experience will be helpful during basic training.
"(I'm) probably going to be the oldest guy there," he added. "It's a new thing for me and I'm just going to go and do the best I can. I think I'll be able to do it."
He noted that both of his sons are proud of his decision to join the National Guard.
"And my oldest one is interested in the military," he said. "He wants to be a Marine when he gets older."
Schwarzlander said his father, Thomas, who died in 1991, also would be proud of his decision.
"He always wanted me to go into the service," he said. "(I'm) making him happy now."
He added, "I just want to do it -- say I did it -- mainly to serve my country, especially in this time of need."