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    Michigan National Guard, opportunities in adventure

    Michigan National Guard, opportunities in adventure

    Photo By Bruce Huffman | Michigan Army National Guard scout snipers Spec. Josh Wilkerson, shooter, and Spec....... read more read more



    Story by Bruce Huffman 

    Michigan National Guard

    Lansing, Mich.-- Whether it’s technical skills and training, money for college, discipline, or a life of adventure you seek, there are plenty of good reasons to join the Michigan National Guard. It’s been a busy year for the Guard, from fighting COVID-19, to protecting our citizens from civil unrest, and responding to massive flooding, but members of Michigan’s Air and Army National Guard have executed these missions flawlessly. Two Soldiers with the 1-125th Infantry Battalion in Saginaw, Mich. have managed to stand out during this unprecedented time. They’ve taken the Army’s warrior ethos to heart, and are living proof that even during a pandemic, through dedication and hard work, it’s possible to achieve your goals and more.

    Wired for adventure, Army Spec. Benjamin Serra of Grand Rapids played organized sports in high school. Now in his mid-20’s, Serra’s hobbies still include sports and extreme activities like mountain biking, skateboarding, and snowboarding. “I always wanted to join the infantry and do grunt stuff as long as I can remember,” said Serra. “I want to do the most exciting job I can until they won’t let me do it anymore.”

    He was a freshman at Grand Valley State University when he joined the Michigan Army National Guard in 2015, and it didn’t take long for Serra to notice the elite sniper section within his infantry unit.

    Much like Serra, Army Spec. Josh Wilkerson of Howell, Mich., played sports in high school and enjoys outdoor activities like hiking and fishing. Just 22 years-old, Wilkerson was also intrigued by the prestige of the elite sniper section in their unit. “Becoming a sniper is a long-term commitment that can take years,” said Wilkerson. “You have to prove yourself before you’re even given the opportunity to compete at the unit-level for a chance to go to sniper school.”

    According to Wilkerson, proving yourself in the infantry means being the very best you can be, in and out of uniform. With the shared goal of becoming elite Army scout snipers, the two set out to prove themselves in every way. Both Soldiers continued pursuing college degrees, sacrificing to balance their studies with work, family, and a very demanding military career in the infantry.

    Serra continued to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Business Economics at Grand Valley State, played rugby for the university for three years, and was captain of the team in 2017. He continued to focus on improving his Army physical fitness score, and being the best Soldier possible until he finally got his opportunity to try out for the sniper section in 2018, and was accepted. “I made it into the section, and went to Sniper School in May 2019,” said Serra.

    Wilkerson, three years younger than Serra, remained razor focused on earning a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice at Oakland University, and also on being the best Soldier possible. “Being a Soldier has helped me become a better leader, and has allowed me to be part of something bigger than myself,” said Wilkerson. He was accepted into the 1-125th Infantry Battalion‘s sniper section and went to sniper school in April 2020.

    As you might expect, the duo continued to push themselves, in an effort to become better snipers. “I enjoy recreational shooting outside of training,” said Wilkerson. “In fact, everyone in the sniper section is extremely committed to becoming the best. They put a lot of extra time into it, and buy extra equipment that will help them become better,” he said.

    The extra effort has not gone unnoticed. Serra and Wilkerson were selected to represent the Michigan National Guard at the 50th Winston P. Wilson Sniper Championship hosted by the National Guard Marksmanship Training Center at the Ft. Chaffee Joint Maneuver Training Center in Barling, Arkansas the first week of December 2020.

    “The matches consist of shooting, fieldcraft, and basically all sniper related tasks, all the way down to the call for fire trainer,” said Sgt. 1st Class Marcus Carver, one of the competition cadre and a sniper instructor from the U.S. National Guard Sniper School. According to Carver, it’s a competition, but it also offers a lot of training opportunities for the sniper teams.

    Although the two didn’t place in the top three of the more than 30 sniper teams in the competition, they did finish ninth overall, and fifth in their division. According to Serra, the two learned a lot of things that they were able to take back to their fellow snipers in Michigan. “It’s the first time we competed outside our unit, and it was a good opportunity to find out where we were skill-wise,” said Serra.

    As if the success at the sniper competition wasn’t enough to top-off a great year, Serra and Wilkerson both officially received their degrees in late December. With the freshly printed degrees in their hands, the two are focusing their sites toward the next adventure. Serra is exploring the possibility of a career in Special Forces. Wilkerson is currently providing support to a state and federal law enforcement task force with a goal of furthering his career in the criminal justice field.

    “The Michigan National Guard has opened doors for me that I never thought were possible,” said Wilkerson. “It’s taught me to put more value and emphasis on every shot I take.” If you want an opportunity to get your life razor-focused and on-target, take your best shot at a challenging and gratifying career in the Michigan National Guard.

    According to Army Maj. Mark Kraus, officer strength manager for the Michigan National Guard, the Guard is currently seeking officers and warrant officers. “Our most urgent need is Food Service Technicians, Infantry, Field Artillery, Chaplains and Medical Professionals. Contact a recruiter through our website at: to see if they can line up your goals with the needs of the Michigan National Guard.”



    Date Taken: 03.10.2021
    Date Posted: 03.10.2021 10:03
    Story ID: 390999
    Location: LANSING, MI, US 
    Hometown: GRAND RAPIDS, MI, US
    Hometown: HOWELL, MI, US

    Web Views: 118
    Downloads: 0