FORT MEADE, Md. - Capt. Adrian Foster founded his military career on the concept of being part of something important. When he graduated high school, he wasn't sure what that was, but he wasn't content to wait and find out. He actively sought and embraced each new twist in his path.

Today, that path leads to Congress.

In late December, Foster, the operations officer at 3rd Battalion, 312th Regiment, 174th Infantry Brigade, received confirmation he'd been selected as an Army Congressional Fellow.

Foster, who lives in Brooklyn Park, Md., completed the rigorous nomination process before being selected to participate in the three-year program. In April, he will begin a master's degree in legislative affairs at George Washington University. After that, he'll serve a year on a member of Congress's staff and then be assigned to duty on the Army or Joint Staff in a legislative liaison position at the Pentagon.

"This is a coveted experience," Foster said. And while he admits it was an honor to be chosen, he's concerned with what comes next.

"It's more about what you do with it. At the end of the day, a soldier has to execute missions based on policy, and I want to impact that in a positive way."

Joining the military seemed a natural career path when Foster, an Air Force brat, graduated high school. He enjoyed being a Soldier and taking each step in his career, but he admits that after a few years he hit a crossroads.

"I could stay enlisted and become a drill sergeant or go back to school," he said. "A very wise platoon sergeant told me to go get my education and that's what I did."

He enrolled in Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Ariz., on an ROTC scholarship and graduated in December 2003. From there, Foster completed the Military Police Officer Basic Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and reported to Fort Bliss, Texas. There, his leadership skills were put to the test with multiple deployments to Iraq, first as platoon leader and later as a company commander. Each experience reinforced his desire to be a better leader and take care of his Soldiers.

In 2010, Foster joined the 174th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East, as an operations officer where he supports the division's mission to mobilize, train, validate, deploy and demobilize Reserve Component units to support overseas military operations. Here, he uses his deployment and leadership experiences to influence the training Reserve Component Soldiers receive prior to deploying around the world.

It was the desire to positively influence the lives of Soldiers that led his friend-- who was selected into the program a few years earlier-- to recommend to Foster that he apply to become a Congressional Fellow. Fortunately, his commander, Lt. Col. Mark Towne, at the 3-312th Regiment was extremely supportive.

"Captain Foster is an excellent Soldier and leader," said Towne. "He is smart and can understand issues from the strategic perspective and translate the impact at the operational and tactical level."

As a congressional fellow, Foster hopes to gain insight and influence what goes on behind the scenes.

"I'll be able to communicate ground truth to members of Congress," he said."That's important, since they directly impact our livelihood. It's important to have someone who can give congressional members that ground truth viewpoint."

"Captain Foster will be very effective at communicating the Army's story to the Congress," said Towne. "His operational experience, understanding of the Active and Reserve components, and excellent communication skills will make him a valuable asset to the senior leadership of the Army."

Towne counts Foster's participation in the program as win-win situation for both Foster and the Army.

"Captain Foster will benefit from this opportunity because the experience will further develop his skills in civil-military relations as he gets involved in the decision making process at the highest levels of government," he said. "His skills, experience, and personality are a great fit for this program.

The Army benefits because it needs our best leaders to provide those who are involved in the legislative process with the highest quality advice and information possible, so they can make informed decisions affecting the future of our nation, he added.

Having sought each new challenge in his career, Foster urges Soldiers to do the same.

"The biggest advice I can give to all Soldiers is they have to take their careers into their own hands," he said. "Look for the opportunities that are out there; talk to HRC [Human Resources Command], talk to mentors and other leaders and find out about these broadening experiences like training with industry and fellowships. I don't think Soldiers are aware of all these programs."

Is a political career the next step? Foster said he doesn't know and isn't actively pursuing that option.

"But, I think it is important to be prepared for anything."