A Profile in Courage
February 25, 2014
Growing up in Fontana California, Andre Shinda loved to play sports. He played football through high school and wanted what every other high school football player did, to go to the pros.
By his junior year in high school, Shinda was already being looked at by college universities. He was fortunate to make it out of the area he grew up in. Many of his friends and teammates were not. Some had run-ins with the law, others problems with illegal substances.
"I played on a football team that had guys that were better athletes than me, but everybody just got in trouble," Shinda said. "One guy was the number two running back in the country ended up going to jail. I have another friend that got in trouble for selling drugs. So just all around there were guys that I grew up with that just made bad decisions."
Shinda knew he wanted more from life; that he just had to get away from the bad situations around him.
"There was maybe me and three other guys that made it out and played sports in college and are somewhat successful," Shinda said. "I just needed to get out of that area and looking back on it I think that was probably the best for me."
He had a "lucky accident" when a former coach of his went to work for The United States Military Academy at West Point.
"They recruited me out of High School, Shinda said. "One of my coaches, he coached for my High School team, he got a job up there so he did a little bit of the leg work as far as them recruiting me and then they ended up picking me up and giving me a full scholarship."
Having come from a family with no military background, Shinda didn't know what to expect.
"I just wanted to play college football and I ended up going to West Point," he said. "I didn?'t know that going to West Point meant that you had to serve in the military. I had no idea until after maybe my freshman year is when I figured that out."
The values and honor of service appealed to Shinda during his time at West Point and despite the shock he felt when he realized what he committed to, Shinda looked on it as a challenge and something he felt he owed to his nation.
"One thing that I noticed that I wanted to do from being there, I got a strong connection with what the Army was doing overseas as far as protecting our freedom," he added. "I've lost a couple of friends over the years who fought in the war against terror and I kind of figured that was something that maybe I owed to them as well as the nation."
Having graduated West Point with a Bachelor's Degree in Defense and Strategic Studies, Shinda was drafted to a different kind of 'Pros' than he had expected when he was commissioned into the Army. He was then faced with the choice of what to do with his military career. Having grown up with a love of sports and teamwork, Shinda knew the infantry was the right choice for him.
Shinda found himself assigned as a young lieutenant to the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakksans," 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
"I had to ask for a couple of [extra] years to get both infantry and the post, but I knew I wanted to be at the 101st," Shinda said. "You can ask anybody about the 101st, hands down the training is phenomenal, great leadership and the NCOs as well as the Soldiers are phenomenal as well, you couldn't get any better than this."
As a leader of Soldiers in an infantry platoon, Shinda's past experiences with competition and motivation help him and his Soldiers strive for the best and succeed.
"I'm an athlete. I did the best Rak[kasan] competition," he said. "I try to take everything that I do, I try to treat it as a competition. Whether it be PT in the morning or something as simple as briefing an OP (Operations) Order. Anytime you're doing something, you're trying to compete to look the best."
Shinda also fosters teamwork and places a special emphasis on knowing his Soldiers and helping them to grow.
"I have a lot of guys in my platoon that I think I share a lot with just because we've done so much together," Shinda said. "You see a [different] side of a lot of these guys that, I guess you consider us men, but a lot of us are still boys and we're all trying to learn how to work together and essentially get the mission done."
That motivation, mentorship and espirit de corps is what his fellow leaders see in him.
"There's no lieutenant in this battalion that works harder than he does," said 1st Lt. Walker Bauer an infantry officer with Company D, 3rd Bn., 187th Inf. Regt. "He's very thorough and he sets a good example for his men."
Shinda knows as a leader in the Army, it isn't always about the mission. He takes time to make sure he is ready and his Soldiers are ready to better themselves personally and professionally.
"I looked at a lot of my mentors and saw what they had and how they got there and how they prepared for it," he said. "That's helped me be successful in whatever I do. You can always learn something every day and that's what I tell a lot of guys."
Having come from a rocky start, Shinda now considers the Army to be his calling and looks forward to taking advantage of all the Army has to offer.
"There's so many possibilities in the Army that people don't take advantage of because they don't know about it," Shinda said. "The Army sets you up for success you gotta know how to find it. A lot of my guys I tell them Hey if you want to do something do it, the Army's going to help you to get there."
Now a First Lieutenant, Shinda plans on making the most of his time in the Army. He plans on continuing his education to earn a Master's Degree and says he looks forward to serving as a commanding officer.
"Maybe it was my obligation to become an officer and lead Soldiers into battle. That's just something that I wanted to do and that's what I'm doing now and I love it."