He's not a typical college student
By Meggie R. Issler
To one Purdue University student, Army National Guard duty means serving his country while finishing his college career.
Photo provided by Scott Kastning
Scott Kastning (left), a junior animal sciences major from Capron, Ill., and Aaron King, 18, of Austin, Texas, pose following basic training at Fort Benning, Ga.
Photo by Meggie R. Issler
Members of a Purdue Army ROTC unit, including Scott Kastning, a junior animal sciences major from Capron, Ill., listen to drill leaders during ambush training.
Scott Kastning, a junior animal sciences major from Capron, Ill., always knew he wanted to join the armed forces, but he never realized how much joining the National Guard would change his life. "Before I entered into the military, I could sleep in late and exercise when I felt like it, but now I have to get up at 5 almost every morning for required physical training," said Kastning.
"Not only do I have to do stuff for the Army, but I also have to go to class, take exams, homework; it all seems to add up at the end of the day." Last spring, he took 20 credit hours of classes. Typically, a Purdue student takes 15 to 18 credit hours. Kastning also is a member of several clubs and leadership groups such as the Purdue Dairy Club and Animal Sciences Ambadassadors.
I've been used to balancing schoolwork with a bunch of extracurricular activities since high school," Kastning said. "In high school, I maintained pretty good grades and played basketball, football, ran track and worked on the family farm nights and weekends."
According to Kastning, he first thought about joining the military in high school, but opted to attend college and maybe join the military along the way or after college. After discussing his plans to join the National Guard with his parents, Kastning enlisted in the spring of 2004. At that time, he was finishing his sophomore year at Purdue.
"I came to a point in my life when I just felt the need to help out," said Kastning. "It just wasn't enough for me to sit back and watch the troops battle it out in Iraq, I wanted to actively help out and make a difference."
"We are very supportive of Scott in everything that he does, but we just wanted to make sure that this was something that he really wanted to do and that he wasn't being pressured by anyone," said his mother, Brenda Kastning. "Of course I was a little worried, but what mother wouldn't be?" After giving goodbye hugs and kisses to his family, Kastning flew to Fort Benning, Ga., home of the infantry, for 10 weeks of basic training.
"It was tough leaving my friends and family. Of course, I missed everybody a lot while I was gone," said Kastning."I had expected the worst in basic training, and it turned out to be not that bad physically."
Following basic training, Kastning packed his bags and headed to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio for combat medical training. According to Capt. Lisa Kopczynski, public affairs officer for the Indiana Department of Military, combat medics are responsible for monitoring troop health, carrying injured individuals to safety and giving any necessary care such as shots, vaccines or bandages.
Following his 17-week training in San Antonio, Kastning returned to his family in Illinois, then to his friends at Purdue. Soon after, he transferred to the 738th Medical Company in the Indiana National Guard, headquartered in Monticello, Ind., thirty minutes from the Purdue campus.
"Since I've returned from training, things have been different in my life. When I first meet people and mention the fact that I serve in the Army National Guard, their tone of voice changes and they seem more interested in my experience in the Guard and where I have served," said Kastning."Since I haven't really served anywhere yet, I don't have any exciting stories to share with people, but I am sure I will at some point."
Upon his return to Purdue in the spring of 2005, Kastning joined the Army Reserve Officer Training Corp at Purdue, also known as Boilermaker Battalion. So when he graduates, he will not only have a Purdue degree, he will be a commissioned officer.
"With ROTC, I have to take special classes and participate in extra training exercises even in addition to my time with the National Guard," said Kastning. "It's all about prioritizing. If I make sure to write everything down, there's no problem getting it all done."
Life changes as we grow older. For Kastning, he discovered a passion for life. The alarm clock reminds him of his life-changing decision every morning at 5 when he has to report for physical training.