By Capt. Robert TaylorNovember 23, 2018
POCATELLO, Idaho - Idaho Army National Guard Spc. Bryce Beard grew up wanting to be in the military. He spoke with active duty U.S. Army and Marine recruiters before deciding to become a Soldier. But before he enlisted into the Army, a family member recommended he talk to an Idaho Army National Guard recruiter.
He chose to enlist into the Idaho Army National Guard because he could pursue his civilian education and begin his military career at the same time. In addition, serving in the National Guard allowed Beard the opportunity to serve not only his community but also his church.
Beard, who enlisted into the Idaho Army National Guard in 2014 when he was 17, spent two years in Buenos Aires as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and returned in January.
"The mission came first," he said. "It was a fantastic experience and I learned a lot. I wouldn't trade it for anything."
Beard grew up in Driggs, a town of approximately 1,800 people located on the Idaho-Wyoming border. His parents, and their parents, are also members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To accommodate his mission, Beard was transferred to the Inactive National Guard for two years.
"Going on my (religious) mission was easy," Beard said. "The only hard part about coming back was trying to get back into shape after eating pasta for two years."
Enlisted Soldiers are able to transfer to the ING who are unable to perform their required duties for a period of time or who want to maintain a connection with the Army National Guard upon leaving active service. Soldiers may request to transfer into the ING due to moves, civilian employment purposes or other reasons but are not exempt from unit mobilizations. Soldiers can remain in the ING for up to three years to complete a religious mission.
"We have always strongly supported those individuals in our organization who desire to serve a mission with their respective church," said Brig. Gen. Farin Schwartz, commander, Idaho Army National Guard. "The experience and discipline gained through this commitment is conducive to military service and fits very well with our core values. Soldiers don't have to choose between serving their nation and church, they can do both."
Currently there are three Soldiers in the Inactive National Guard from Beard's battalion, the 1-148th Field Artillery Regiment, who are completing religious missions with two additional Soldiers expected to also transfer into the ING soon to serve on a church mission.
Beard currently serves with B Battery, 1-148th Field Artillery Regiment, 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team. He attended Basic Combat Training and Advance Individual Training in 2015 to earn his military occupational specialty of 13B cannon crewmember.
"I love field artillery," he said. "It's one of the most fun jobs you can have because you're shooting big cannons. It's challenging but at the same time, not impossible. but at the same time, it's challenging but not impossible. It's cool to be part of that history of those guys who win wars."
Crewmembers must operate the M109A6 Paladin, a self-propelled howitzer capable of accurately shooting a 155mm round 30 kilometers. A M2 .50 cal machine gun is mounted to the howitzer's turret and Beard has qualified on the MK-19 grenade launcher, the M-40 machine gun and the M4/M16 rifle.
In addition to the weapons he gets to fire in the Idaho Army National Guard, Beard also likes the comradery he finds in his unit.
"It's like having another family," he said. "It's a group of friends that on the weekend you can go talk to. You know they'll going to be there for you."
Beard is currently attending college at Idaho State University. He spent a semester at BYU-Idaho before transferring to ISU over the summer. He's currently studying business management and is thinking about becoming a dentist.
As a Soldier in the Idaho Army National Guard, Beard is eligible to receive Federal Tuition Assistance and State Education Assistance Program benefits as well as the GI Bill.
"I like being a Soldier," Beard said. "That's what I wanted to do since I was little. To be able to be a Soldier and peruse my civilian desires is nice."