CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - Indiana National Guard 1st Lt. Matthew Michael, Army signal officer, helps 10,000 U.S. service members stay connected as part of Task Force Spartan in the Middle East.

Michael, who received his new rank in October, was one of about 600 division soldiers who departed the Hoosier State in May. They support the task force that helps strengthen defense relationships, build partner capacity and deter regional aggression.

"Our recent presence here in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has given me a greater perspective on how I view the overall mission of Task Force Spartan," said Michael, who's been in the Guard for three years. "Realizing that we are some of the first troops on the ground in a country that will be of greater importance to the United States Army in years to come has given me the pride to be a part of the 38th Infantry Division headquarters battalion."

The U.S. deployed additional defensive capabilities to Saudi Arabia in September in response to Iran's attempts to destabilize the global economy.

Division Soldiers supporting Task Force Spartan provide leadership, command, control and in-depth staff analysis. As a division signal officer, Michael leads troops and helps ensure that the unit's soldiers can communicate throughout 11 countries in southwest Asia.

"My favorite part about my role is the influence I can have on others as a leader," said Michael. "Continuing to improve on my leadership ability is something I look forward to assisting in both my civilian and military career."

The Fort Wayne native sees many benefits -- from egalitarian to financial -- to joining the Indiana National Guard.

"I was able to pursue a civilian career while fulfilling a dream of mine: serving my country," said Michael. "I am able to carry on the Army legacy of those in my family. In addition, being in the military gives me a purpose and confidence I didn't experience before joining."

When not serving in the community-based National Guard, Michael works as a technical recruiter in the engineering field with Aerotek.

Michael said that military benefits he's gained helped his civilian career while still serving his nation.

"I like the fact I can live a normal life full time, while still feeling I'm helping the country in some way," said Michael.

Michael earned his commission at the federal Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia.