News: 'Brothers in Arms' Earn GED Diplomas
Story by Capt. Kyle Key
CAMP ROBINSON, Ark. — There has hardly been a day that these two brothers from Versailles, Missouri have been apart--now they’ve joined the Missouri Army National Guard, earned their GED diplomas and have begun Army basic training--together.
Joshua and Sean Niepman grew up in a rustic lifestyle reminiscent of days gone by. They had no plumbing, no electricity and very little interaction with the outside world. By the 4th grade, the Niepman brothers were pulled out of public school to go to work and be taught at home. While they didn’t have an upbringing like most kids watching TV, playing games or listening to the radio, they had the love of their parents who taught them how to persevere.
“In the long run, I think that what I’ll take away from this experience growing up will be the discipline of relying on myself and using limited resources to live,” said Sean. “That certainly gave us perspective to survive just about anywhere.”
At age 19, Joshua was allowed to get a job in Versailles to help out his family. Joshua and Sean also received their father’s blessing to join Missouri Tae Kwon Do dojan where they excelled and found a passion for Korean martial arts. For three years, Chief Instructor Paul F. Martin took the Niepman brothers’ raw talent and molded them into pupils of the art. Martin retired from the Australian army as a Major and served as a High Altitude Low-Opening Instructor for the HALO Committee, Special Forces Schools formerly at Fort Bragg, N.C.
“Both possess a strong appreciation for the idea of justice, of ‘doing the right thing,’” said Martin. “They were diligent in their training, always polite and courteous and always gentlemen. Eager to learn is an understatement regarding these two, never have I been asked so many questions regarding the application of different techniques, my opinion of other martial arts, what it means to be a martial artist. They were like sponges, absorbing information in an effort to shape their lives.”
The Niepman brothers arrived at the GED Plus Complex at Camp Robinson, Ark., Jan. 4, 2011 to begin their military and academic education. Josh said he was a little shocked when they stepped off the bus. “Being homeschooled and sheltered by our parents, we weren’t around anybody but our family for the past 19 years,” said Joshua. “Being around this many people at GED Plus is a lot different.” The Niepman brothers along with more than 120 recruits lined up in the in-processing station and were introduced to their drill sergeants.
After receiving their in-briefing, toiletries and uniforms, they were assigned to Barracks 9 to make bunks and set up their foot locker displays. Sean said when the dust settled, his fellow recruits started lamenting about their situation. “When we got here, everyone was missing home and I was like how can I motivate these guys, so I got down and did 275 sit-ups nonstop in four minutes,” Sean said.
“We may have a gut but we have the motivation,” said Josh. “It’s not your appearance, but it’s your motivation toward that goal. If you set your goal at 400 sit-ups, no matter now big or how small you are, you’re pushing yourself towards that goal.” Both Sean and Joshua credited their martial arts training.
During the first day of classes, it took even more motivation for the Niepman brothers to overcome their academic obstacles. “We were shocked,” Sean said. “I told the instructors that I didn’t know any of that--period!”
Joshua said they were both determined to pass and prove everyone wrong who said they would be failures. “I never made it through the 4th grade and here I am graduating in just three weeks and I haven’t been to school in 15 years,” said Josh. That tells me that the instructors are magnificent and that if I can pass the GED, so can everyone else.”
“I see now why GED Plus has such a high percentage passing rate because this is an amazing program,” said Sean. Since its inception in 2006, the National Guard GED Plus Program has graduated more than 9,200 recruits and currently has a success rate of 98.2 percent.
With their diplomas in hand, the Niepman brothers arrived at Ft. Benning, Ga. Monday to begin Army basic training and will receive their advanced individual training as food service specialists at the U.S. Army Quartermaster School Joint Culinary Center for Excellence at Fort Lee, Va.