Fresh off digging Buffalo out from under seven feet of snow, our December NFM Salute sat down with us to discuss why the Army National Guard is more than just “weekend warriors”. In fact, after tours in Iraq, Egypt, and Afghanistan, he exemplifies why there is so much more to this military force.

Full Transcript is Below:

– Welcome into our December 2022 NFM Salute. I’m NFM TV’s Greg Sher. We are honored to welcome in Lieutenant Colonel Army National Guard Jason Secrest, who’s been serving our country since 1999. Jason, thanks for being with us on NFM TV and agreeing to be our NFM Salute for the month of December.

– Thanks for having me, Greg, happy to be here.

– From the age of 15, you dreamt of serving our country, and boy, have you done that in a substantial way. We’ll get to that in a moment, but first, you’re kind of in the news. You’ve been in the news lately, not directly you, but you decided to get in your car from where you reside in the Northern Virginia area and head to Buffalo, New York, when the snowstorm hit in mid-November. 70 inches of snow was heading up that way, and as part of your duties in the National Guard, you decided to go and help dig out Buffalo, Niagara Falls, that whole area. Again, 70 inches of snow. Tell us about that. What made you take the drive and kind of what capacity you served in?

– So my unit was supposed to have our regularly scheduled National Guard drill this weekend, and about Wednesday or Thursday was looking like, forecasts were showing that we were just actually gonna get dumped on. So I elected to reschedule our training, and then I shifted the focus of our unit activity to preparing for the snowstorm. And it’s a good thing that we did because starting Friday morning, the whole region just really just started to get dumped on. We’re getting ready to wrap up our fifth day of operation, and fortunately, everybody’s gonna get to go home before Thanksgiving and enjoy a good Thanksgiving meal.

– The Buffalo Bills decided to wait until the storm hit. That was kind of interesting and weird, and the town must have been abuzz with how do we clean the streets for the Bills to make their way to the airport, huh?

– Well, Greg, we were waiting for that call to go dig Josh Allen out and get him to the airport, so he could get up to Detroit, but fortunately, everybody chipped in and got all the Bills out and got ’em out in time.

– Okay, so now let’s go back to this little boy, 15 years old. When do you first recall your love of military and how did it manifest itself as you started to grow up into a young man?

– From both my grandfathers who served in World War II, and my one grandfather in particular ended his career as a First Sergeant in the Ohio National Guard. And just grew up on those stories and just always aspired to that. And when I was 15, I joined the Air Force Auxiliary, the Civil Air Patrol, and it was right about the time I was going to college that I thought that, hey, I wanna go be an officer. And I enlisted first, and then got my commission later in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard back in 2002.

– And before you knew it, you were deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I think that there is kind of like misinformation about National Guard, that National Guard, they just kinda sit around and wait, when in fact, in some ways, you guys are the most active unit of the military. Do you agree that the National Guard is misunderstood?

– Yeah, sure. I think definitely people look at the National Guard as the weekend warrior mentality, 1 weekend a month, 2 weeks in the summer. Well, I’m here to tell you that 1 weekend a month, 2 weeks in the summer turned into 3 overseas tours, deployments to combat zones, and turned into 2 COVID-19 mobilizations.

– Yeah, so about Iraqi Freedom. You were in a combat zone.

– Yes, I was in the greater Ramadi area, and it was IEDs and a lotta raids, street combat, and it was a real wake up call for a young kid from Central Pennsylvania.

– What is the training like for you for you to be ready to be in a situation like that?

– A lot of field training. There’s classroom training, but a lotta the time is spent out in the field because you need to learn how to work together as a unit. You need to be able to conduct skills at a very high level in a cohesive way, and so, yeah, it’s a lot of the same requirements. We just don’t have as much time to train as the active duty counterparts do.

– So we touched on one of your deployments. How about peace keeping in Egypt? Give us a window into what that was like.

– Yeah, so I deployed for a year. I took my cavalry troop to Egypt, and we were stationed in the Sinai Peninsula for that time. And we were part of a force called the Multinational Force and Observers. Was part of the Camp David Accords of 1981, which helped reconcile Egypt and Israel, created a long term lasting peace in that region, probably one of the precursors to subsequent accords that have helped bring peace between Israel and the Middle East.

– And lastly, deployed to Afghanistan. Man, that was a hot zone for awhile there. When were you there and what was it like?

– So I was there in 2012 in Kandahar. I was an Afghan Army Advisor and worked every day with my Afghan counterparts and teach, coach, and mentor them in combat tactics.

– What did you learn from all the time spent overseas just being around different cultures and civilizations?

– I think the biggest thing is is that America’s the best country in the world, and I’m always happy to be home. And I think that traveling to a war zone or serving in a war zone, probably not the best way to pick up on cultures and things like that, but I’ve seen the world in a way that many people just don’t get to experience.

– I always wonder what it’s like to look into the eyes of natives of whatever land you’re helping to protect, and to see the concern and worry in their souls, just how that touches you as an American serviceman.

– We take a certain way of life for granted. People just don’t have that everywhere, and I think just being cognizant of the fact that there’s other people that have it way worse than you do and trying to be empathetic and trying to work with them as best you can to improve their situation.

– Biggest scare you ever had in any of the deployments?

– I’ve had multiple scares. I think Iraq probably was my biggest scare. A couple IED explosions that really rocked me. It’s a surreal moment when you’re walking somewhere, and you see a puff of dust kick up next to you, and you realize somebody just took a shot at you.

– Well, you’ve been serving the country now for 23 years, and I asked you, why are you still serving? Why don’t you stop? When will you stop?

– When it stops to be fun or ceases to be fun, I should say, then I’ll get out, but I’m enjoying it. This past weekend was a great example of I was able to directly help other people. It’s also just an important part of who I am is just service and giving back to other people.

– So you live in the Virginia area, you are a real estate agent. You work for Coldwell Banker. Tell us about that career.

– I started doing it part-time, and then it turned into what’s been a really great full-time career. I think the biggest contribution that my military side has is that I bring to the business a great work ethic, great sense of integrity. Buying or selling a house is not a hobby for me. It’s a profession, and I treat it very seriously.

– And you serve the Maryland, Virginia, and DC areas?

– That’s correct.

– Is it okay if I put your contact information below?

– Please do.

– I’m gonna do it right now. It’s gonna show up right now. See how that worked. Jason Secrest, Lieutenant Colonel Army National Guard, thanks so much for all you’ve done to keep this country safe and to protect our freedoms. We really appreciate you joining us as our December 2022 NFM Salute.

– Thanks for the opportunity, Greg, I appreciate it.

– I’m Greg Sher from NFM TV. We’ll see you next year.