Edna Knutson, wife and mother, earns honors at National Guard boot camp

Barry and Edna Knutson

by Del Bartels

On May 24, Edna Knutson signed up with the National Guard. On October 6, she left Sioux Falls for boot camp. On December 16, she graduated from that camp.

All of this may not be unusual, except Knutson is a wife and a mother, she earned the coveted Commanding General’s Award at graduation, and she may see live action in such areas as Iraq.

“Her joining the military was a family decision,” said husband Barry.

“Barry was checking into re-enlisting, in doing so we found incentives for me - pay for my past student loans and my future nursing, and a $10,000 sign-up bonus,” said Edna. “It looked good for the college, educational advancement, and the potential career opportunities.”

Everything seemed beneficial, except for one thing. “Being away from my family is the only negative,” said Knutson.

That aspect will be felt again soon. According to her last orders, Knutson is to report to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio for 17 weeks of Advanced Individual Training.

“Why me instead of Barry? If I am deployed, he can still keep our sign-making business going. Financially, it was wiser for me because it would pay off my student loans. Family-wise, our daughters are at a good age; they can help around the house and are more autonomous,” explained Knutson. Kianna is in sixth grade and Katlin is in third.

“We both thought about joining up, but everyone is always deployable. We were not ready to have someone else raise our children,” said Knutson.

“The girls are very understanding and supportive. They have grown a lot through this. Having had their mother gone for weeks at a time, they are now more understanding with single-parent friends,” said Knutson “Our favorite phrase, though jokingly meant, is ‘This is crazy.’

Knutson has many relatives who were, or are, in the military - father, father-in-father, sister, husband. Her ASVAB score was 97 out of 99 – a test taken before joining the military; the higher the score, the more options a recruit will have in career placement within the military.

Knutson also took advantage of a program relatively new to South Dakota, the RSP - Recruitment Sustainment Program. “It is like an introduction to basic training through one weekend a month until you go to boot camp,” said Knutson. “It includes training drills, values, how to be a soldier, being yelled at; it eases you into the military. I bawled all the way back to Philip after my first weekend. I went back for three more weekends. It was a challenge for me to see I could leave my children and live like a soldier.

“This is what is so neat about this for us. I found out that I am not alone, I was one of many non-traditional members at boot camp.”

There were 65 recruits in 1st Platoon (Echo 3-10), and three platoons in the battalion.

Knutson’s special recognition of the Commanding General’s Award stated, “Her leadership ability, physical fitness, warrior spirit, and overall knowledge of military subjects are commended as uniquely outstanding.”

“The C.G. award was actually a surprise to me. I enjoyed the physical training, the morning runs, the marches, the obstacle courses. I got to shoot the 50 caliber! I became a squad leader for 1st Platoon about halfway through boot camp. Everyone comes out of boot camp with more self-worth.

“It didn’t mean that you didn’t wake up every day without thinking – what am I doing here? By the end of the day you felt better about being there and being in the military. Then, the next day, you started all over again.

“Mail is gold,” said Knutson. “They made us do push-ups to receive every letter and package, but mail is still gold.”

Knutson’s MOS (military occupational specialty) will be as a clinical and field medic. After a year, she hopes to be working toward becoming a physician’s assistant. Barry is proud of his wife, and warns her to not let up because many desirable program training courses have a 50% fail rate, which he agrees with, “Why train the untrainable?”

Ken Broomfield, a recruiting and retention officer, agrees that the military is not for everyone, though everyone should look into it. Technology and modern times has created a new kind of warfare. “There is no such thing as a front line any more,” said Broomfield. “I like the people of Philip. There are many people here who have been or are in the military.” Broomsfield respectively softened his voice, “Philip has had its ‘hits’ concerning its service people, yet they are still very supportive of the military and its members.”

Barry Knutson will soon have Edna’s new mailing address for the people of the Philip area. She again stressed, “Mail is gold.”