LARAMIE, Neb. - The choice to join the military is no small
thing. Some join out of a life-long ambition to serve one's country.
Others join out of a long family tradition of service. Some are
drawn by the chance to make a better life or see the world. For
Cadet Maggie Walstrom, a Buffalo, Minnesota, native and Soldier with
the 353rd Transportation Company, the decision came out of the blue.
Cadet Maggie Walstrom, left, takes charge of the company formation after a long day of convoy operations with the 353rd Transportation Company July 11,
2015. Walstrom is currently serving as a platoon leader during the company's convoy operation from Buffalo, Minn., to Camp Roberts, Calif. The convoy operation began July 9,
2015 and is moving 44 Soldiers and more than 20 cargo-laden military vehicles more than 2,000 miles cross-country as part of an annual training initiative known as Nationwide Move. The 353rd Transportation Company's westward trek will not only provide training for its Soldiers, but also practical logistics support to its sister unit, the 322nd Maintenance Company, which will be conducting its annual training in California. (US Army Photo by Sgt Victor Ayala, 210th MPAD)
"I'd been talking to a friend in high school who had just
gotten back from Basic Combat Training," she said. "At that
time, I didn't know what I was going to do with my life. So,
I was in the gym one day at school and said to myself, 'I'm
joining the Reserves when I turn 17.'"
first telling her parents about the decision: "I told my mom
and she thought I was nuts," she said. "My whole family
thought I was crazy."
The rest happened quickly. On
her 17th birthday, Walstrom signed her enlistment contract,
and went off to Basic Combat Training in April 2012. In her
short time in the Reserves, she's worked diligently to prove
that though her choice to serve was made quickly, her charge
is not taken lightly. Walstrom has gone from the rank of
private to a Cadet in Minnesota State University at
Mankato's Reserve Officers Training Corps. She has also gone
on from her position as an enlisted automated logistics
specialist to an acting platoon leader in the 353rd.
Her choice to become an officer was as serendipitous as
her choice to enlist. Her unit was hosting a Family
Readiness Group fundraiser during which key positions in the
unit were auctioned off for a day, and Walstrom won the
position of 353rd Transportation Company Commander. Though
her day in "command" was all in good fun, Walstrom felt
compelled by the notion of leading and commanding Soldiers.
"It was only for about eight or nine hours," Walstrom
said. "But it opened my eyes to some of what an officer does
and it really interested me."
Since becoming a Cadet,
Walstrom's leadership at the
353rd has been trusting her with more and more
responsibility, designating her 1st Platoon Leader and
assigning her more leadership-based
tasks. On July 11, during the 353rd's weeklong convoy
mission from Buffalo, Minn., to Camp Roberts, California,
Walstrom took charge of the company formation and held a
promotion ceremony for a junior enlisted Soldier.
"This has been a really rewarding and positive experience,"
Walstrom said. "Some of the Soldiers are starting to treat
me with more respect, too."
achievements extend beyond her military career. Walstrom is
studying law enforcement at MSU Mankato in the hopes of
becoming a law enforcement officer like her late uncle, Rudy
Betlach. Raised solely by her mother, Walstrom looked to
Betlach as a father figure.
"He was my idol, my
hero," Walstrom said of her uncle. "I looked up to him. He
was a police officer in Anoka, Minnesota. I've decided to
follow in his footsteps."
Walstrom may not have ever
guessed she'd come so far so quickly. In high school, she
thought college would be too expensive for a child growing
up in a single-parent household to even consider. However,
since beginning classes, she's been hired onto the North
Mankato Police Reserves and the River Halls Mall Security
Force in Mankato. She was also recently awarded a $25,000
scholarship from MSU Mankato, which in addition to her ROTC
stipend, is making a college education a reality.
When asked what she hopes to do once she becomes an
Army officer, her first
thoughts are of her fellow troops and the bonds she's forged
in the 353rd.
"I've got roots here in the unit," she
says. "I want to stay in transportation. I want to stay with
the trucks. I love being on convoys, so I hope to stay in
Perhaps in the not-so-distant future,
Walstrom will get a chance to command the 353rd for more
than a day. If her current successes are any indication, it
will be no surprise to see Walstrom commanding troops very
By U.S. Army Sgt Victor Ayala
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