By Spc. Jarod DyeAugust 22, 2017
AUGUSTA, Maine -- Some National Guard Soldiers choose to serve as infantrymen, medics, mechanics, and even lawyers or doctors.
Spc. Justin Theriault does not fill any of these roles, but he plays an essential part in the National Guard nonetheless. Theriault is an experienced heavy equipment operator for the 185th Engineer Support Company and works for the U.S. Border Patrol when not at drill.
The 185th conducts horizontal construction missions such as building roads, firing ranges, helicopter pads, and much more.
"In the Guard we do a lot of different projects from making soccer fields to improving ditches for local schools and towns," said Theriault. "This summer we went up to Gagetown, New Brunswick to build a helicopter pad for the Canadian Army."
Theriault's missions with the 185th over the last 10 years have also taken him out of the state for natural disaster relief.
"We served in Hurricane Irene -- it was nice to get out and help the communities. We get paid to do what most people would probably do for free if they had the ability," said Theriault. "A lot of the roadways after Irene were washed out. As engineers we went down to put new culverts in and help out the citizens. Some people were trapped and couldn't escape their houses."
Theriault talked about how proud he was to help fellow New England residents after the August 2011 hurricane caused millions of dollars' worth of damages across the state of Vermont.
"It's great to help out like that, it's one of the main reasons why we join the Guard," said Theriault.
Theriault also said that the National Guard taught him more than just how to operate heavy equipment.
"I love heavy equipment and I've always liked to operate it, but I didn't want to do it as a primary job in the civilian world," said Theriault. "This gives me an opportunity to let me do what I want to do civilian-wise and still have the enjoyment of serving in the Army -- it breaks up my normal life which is a good thing."
After beginning his work with the Guard, he joined the U.S. Border Patrol because he was interested in law enforcement and loves the outdoors.
"The Guard teaches you discipline, it helps you mature and set goals," said Theriault. "I had never thought of doing border patrol until after I was in the military. The Guard gave me some moral bearing and pushed me forward."
Theriault traveled to many places around the country for his civilian job, but he expressed his fondness for being back in Maine after having to go in the inactive National Guard while attending the Customs and Border Protection Border Patrol Academy.
"I started off working Border Patrol in Texas and Arizona, but now I'm back in Maine where I grew up," said Theriault.
Theriault enjoys working for his country and takes pride in what he can do while on and off the clock.
"I love serving! The U.S. is the best country in the world so it's nice to be able to do something for the nation," said Theriault. "On the border patrol side it's nice to be able to stop any terrorists or drugs from coming in."
His motivations extend beyond just his job duties and the U.S. Border Patrol's mission. Sometimes, it's more personal because he strives to foster better futures for American youths.
"I have a kid so any drugs we can catch and keep off the streets is a good thing for their future," said Theriault.
As part of his job with the U.S. Border Patrol, he helps back up police departments that need extra help.
"Helping out police departments has been a great experience," he said. "Sometimes you catch people at their worst times, so it's good to try to be understanding, and help them get through it."
Not only did the National Guard help Theriault in his civilian life, his civilian job also helped him become a model Soldier in the 185th -- and his leadership recognizes it.
"Spc. Theriault is an excellent Soldier," said Sgt. First Class Scott Robichauld, Theriault's platoon sergeant. "He is always willing to convey his law enforcement experience to train Soldiers and prepare them for deployments."
His qualities as a Soldier go beyond just getting the job done himself, he also goes above and beyond to help other junior Soldiers in his company.
"His demeanor and selflessness help to increase morale," said Robichauld. "He is a leader in ways well above his current rank. He takes people under his wing all the time and mentors his junior peers to achieve their potential."
Theriault is known for being a motivated worker, making sure everything is completed in the right way, an attitude that his leadership appreciates.
"Any time there's a job that we're doing, he is one of the most reliable people, any time you ask him to do something he'll get it done and exceed your standards and expectations," said 2nd Lt. Tim Kelly, Theriault's platoon leader. "All in all, he's just a great guy and a good Soldier."
Theriault originally joined the Guard planning to serve just his six years before leaving. Now, he plans on staying for a full twenty years until retirement.
"After I went to basic and really understood the purpose of the Guard and the Army itself, I fell in love with it," said Theriault. "I know if I got out now, I'd miss everyone."