Harley and Darcy Schwind both enlisted in the North Dakota National Guard at 17 years old, following in the footsteps of family.

“Going all the way back, I had uncles in the Second World War, uncles in the Vietnam War, my father served,” Harley said.

They crossed paths in 1990 at the Regional Training Institute in Camp Grafton and married three years later.

“He was a phenomenal instructor and so knowledgeable, he really was, I was just captivated,” Darcy said.

Harley and Darcy worked as instructors at the Institute for about 10 years — something Darcy says was an especially rewarding experience.

“To work at the RTI and teach these soldiers engineering for 10 years, to see when they come in and two weeks later how confident they are and what they’ve achieved. To see these soldiers grow and become great warriors is amazing,” Darcy said.

After 11 years as an instructor at the RTI, Harley served as first sergeant in several companies, eventually working his way up to Command Sergeant Major. In that role, he deployed with a unit to Iraq, one mission among many that gave him the experience to see the world and serve his country.

“So many rewarding jobs, pinnacle jobs, being a battalion command sergeant major in a combat zone, coming back, working several flood missions after I returned,” Harley said.

Harley and Darcy’s work would overlap overseas just one time in Ghana.

“That was just so enlightening, insightful. Those people are amazing, what they’ve done with so little, it just makes you grateful for what you do have,” Darcy said.

But working together and traveling often while having three kids had its challenges, which Darcy says made patience and communication crucial for their family.

“Before cell phones, there were times when I was leaving and he was coming home and we’d meet in the Minneapolis airport, and here’s the list of things going on, our kids have this, this and this. Prior to cell phones, we had to hand off notes and meet in the airport,” Darcy said.

Overall, the Schwind’s say their best advice for those thinking of enlisting is to keep an open mind and stick with it.

“It’s amazing, you get in and one day you wake up and 36 years have gone by and where did they go?” Harley said.

Harley retired in 2017 and Darcy in 2018. The Schwind’s say they stay involved with retirement ceremonies, and Darcy still works for the guard as a federal tech but as a civilian.