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Local man dedicates life to country

By Wendy Sweeter

Bob Schmidt’s family welcomed him home from Africa last year. He’s pictured here with his wife, Patty, and daughters, Kelsey and Kamille.

Local service member Bob Schmidt has spent much of his adult life serving in the military.

He started his service right after graduating from Parkston High School in 1997. He spent four years active duty for the Marines. He took a break after the Marines and then joined the South Dakota Army National Guard in 2006.

“I’d always wanted to be a Marine since I was a little kid. My cousin was in the Marine Corps and served during Desert Storm so that kind of pushed me in that direction,” he said.

In addition to his cousin, Schmidt also has two brothers that were in the Army National Guard.

When he was in the Marines, he had a deployment in Okinawa and South Korea. Since he’s been in the Army Guard, he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010-11 and Africa in 2020-21.

In Africa, he and his unit of 196 members assisted with security throughout the continent.

“It was a really good deployment. The unit, we did a lot of different things, but we were able to increase the security cooperation in approximately 16 different countries throughout the continent,” he said.

His deployment to Africa differed from his deployment in Afghanistan. First, in Afghanistan they operated within one country. In Africa, they traveled between 16 countries. In Afghanistan, they had different threats to worry about from a different adversary.

Operating during Covid presented other challenges while he was in Africa. They had to deal with different restrictions with each country they were in.

“It presented a lot of challenges for the fact of if we had missions or operations in different countries, we had to suffice and abide by their rules. That meant with doing quarantine and then testing prior to arriving, testing when we got back,” Schmidt said.

He learned a lot about different countries’ cultures.

“You would fly into a country that has 50-100 million people, but some of their cities are not very advanced. Their infrastructure is not up to date and a lot of very poor individual even though it’s not a war-torn country it’s still an underdeveloped or undeveloped country that you’re flying into and working in,” he said.

Schmidt said the biggest challenge to military service is separation. Technology has helped with communication between family members. Communication has advanced to make talking to family at home more available. When he started in 1997, they were communicating my letter.

The rewards he sees from military service is the desire to serve something larger than yourself and gaining enormous amount of experience, both good and bad, to draw on. He noted you also make some lifelong friends and it makes your family, like his wife, Patty, and daughters, Kelsey and Kamille, more resilient.

“I’d like to think that, it is difficult, it is hard for the separation of the families, but I also like to think you become a stronger and more resilient family due to those experiences,” he said.

As part of the army guard, members spend one weekend a month at drill and have a two-week annual training. They also help with floods, fires, blizzard, tornadoes and crowd control.

Currently, Schmidt is the command sergeant major for the 152nd CSSB in Brookings. In the past, he has served in several other units around South Dakota.

In his civilian job, he works as a registered nurse at the Sioux Falls VA Hospital.

Serving his country has been an honor.

“It’s an honor to serve. It’s not easy and not everyone does, but I would like to think it’s made me a better person,” Schmidt said. “It’s also made my family more resilient. It hasn’t always been easy, but I think we’re a strong, more resilient family from this service as well.”


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