FORT CARSON, Colo. - In 1993 a young man from Bismarck, North Dakota, was looking for a little excitement to add to his life.
With excitement and change on his mind, at the age of 21 Anton Hillig decided to leave his hometown and join the U.S. Army.
"I grew up loving motorcycles and the recruiter had shown me a video of Army scouts riding dirt bikes," said Hillig. "I thought I would be perfect for that role and joined. Well, I became a scout but I have yet to see a motorcycle."
After 26 years of serving his country, now Command Sgt. Maj. Hillig has decided it's time to take off his boots and hang up his uniform for good.
Hillig held leadership positions from squad leader to brigade and division rear command sergeant major while serving.
As a brigade command sergeant major for the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Hillig was responsible for over 4,200 Soldiers. As a division command sergeant major (rear) for the 4th Inf. Div. he was responsible for over 30,000 Soldiers.
"If you had asked that kid who graduated from Century High School in 1991 if he would be leading that many sons and daughters of our great country through some of the most dangerous places in our world, he would have choked on his slurpee in disbelief," said Hillig.
During his years of service, Hillig deployed seven times to include Afghanistan, Iraq and Haiti to name a few. While serving in hostile environments, Hillig earned four Bronze Star Medals, an award which is earned by U.S. Armed Forces members for either heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement or meritorious service in a combat zone.
"I have been deployed seven times and have witnessed the horrors of war, but those times have also allowed me to witness human beings at their ultimate best," said Hillig. "My service in the military has been an extremely challenging and rewarding experience. It provided me opportunities, structure and experiences I would not have necessarily gained through academia and re-enforced in me the values and work ethic taught by my parents and community."
However with all his military and combat experience, Hillig said he still finds some anxiety at the thought of transitioning out of the military lifestyle.
"It can be intimidating to begin a new career and for a guy like me, being intimidated is a weird feeling," he explained. "I recognize my military service does not entitle me to anything as a civilian, after all I chose this path."
Hillig hopes the experience he gained during his time in the military will be helpful in his transition to put his nervousness at ease.
"My service has provided me experiences not found anywhere else, taught me trust is the bedrock of any organization, engrained in me the value of being an effective team member, held me accountable for ethical behavior and most importantly gave me the opportunity to lead the sons and daughters of this great nation," he said.
As Hillig and his wife Sandi, who have been married for over 25 years and were high-school sweethearts, prepare to leave Colorado and enter the scenic beauty of North Dakota, Hillig said he is most excited to become an active member of his community.
"I am excited to begin my transition back home to Bismarck and embrace civilian life, plus I am a wicked good pinochle player and am looking forward to joining the scene," said Hillig. "(We) are excited to reunite with our Family and the community who helped me become the Soldier I am today."
"I look forward to continuing to find a way to serve our community and make a difference. I think my experiences in the Army over the last 26 years have given me a perspective that makes me well suited to make a difference."