“The worst part about retiring from the military is you don’t see those friends on a day to day basis anymore, or on a weekend basis anymore,” said Kent Keller, First Sergeant, North Dakota National Guard, retired.
But the memories will always remain.
And for Kent Keller, a retired First Sergeant with the North Dakota National Guard, there are many good memories.
Keller joined the National Guard at the age of 17, with full support from his parents.
“The war threat then wasn’t what the war threat is now,” Keller stated. “So saying you’re gonna join the National Guard of the military didn’t seem to be scary thoughts to the parents at the time.”
Keller trained in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and later went on to Fort McClellan, Alabama for military police training.
His first deployment was with the 191st Military Policy, or MPs, to Operation Desert Storm in 1991 where he was an “outside wire guard,” or “POW MP.”
“We ran a military police compound,” Keller explained. “So prisoners of war were brought in through our the compound that we held. Our sole job was to guard the outside of the wire of an MP compound.”
It was an eye opening experience for Keller, and he recognizes how different that experience can be for one soldier to another.
“I’ll never experience what my father experienced, the war that he experienced was completely different than wars than the wars I experienced,” Keller said. “I was relatively safe everywhere I was at, but again, other people from my own my own unit were not in the same position.”
And amidst the difficult times were also a number of good times.
“The first rule of the army is you don’t touch the animals. Don’t play with the animals. Leave the animals alone, but when you have a Bedouin come through with a camel, everybody wants to ride a camel,” Keller said. “When I was in Australia, yeah, we had a chance to tour and interact with the animals. And so yes, you always interact with the animals. A monkey in Honduras!”
Then came 2001.
Keller was at a military training exercise in Germany and England when the Twin Towers were hit and his unit was shipped back to the U.S.
“The call came out for National Guard support to do the operation noble eagle,” Keller explained. “It was for the security of the airports. Me and two other people throw our hands up said ‘yes, we definitely want to do this.'”
Keller worked long days with the airport security in Devil’s Lake initially, and then moved to the Bismarck airport.
His third and final deployment was Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Keller was around 45-years-old and he’d seen a number of countries and what was happening.
“I know deployments are hard on people know what it can do to marriages, and the children,” Keller expressed. “So I offered what I could offer for for support to, to the younger kids.”
And after 40 years of serving in the North Dakota National Guard, Keller is proud and recommends others consider serving their country as well.
“It’s a good quality of life,” Keller said. “I mean, you get a chance to see things you get a chance to do things. Stick around, it’s it’s a great retirement package too.”
Keller says the biggest challenge in most cases was communication … from accents in Missouri to English in England, to non-English, it could make for some interesting situations!