Upon completing nine weeks of boot camp and 16 weeks of advanced training, Kody Schmitt will spend the next five years in the United States military as an army medic. The 27-year-old raised in Sun Prairie expects to spend some time in either Iraq or Afghanistan, tending to wounded soldiers or the civilians caught in the crossfire.
Schmitt's enlistment comes at a time when expected troop reductions in Iraq will further strain the army's ranks as reconstruction efforts gain speed. Last year, the Army met its stated goal of recruiting 80,000 troops, up 10,000 from the year before. The increase owes in part to signing bonuses.
A few hours before heading off to boot camp, Schmitt spoke with The Daily Page about why he joined the military during a time of war.
The Daily Page: You're 27, there's a war going on, so what in the world made you enlist?
Schmitt: I know it's a time of war, but I really try and not think about that. For me, it's more about wanting to do something for myself. It's not to be honored or anything. I just wanted to do something challenging with my life. The Army has so many opportunities to offer.
How did your family take it?
They're pretty stressed out, especially my parents. They're really upset, but hey, the Army trains you to be in combat situations. I tell them that. My sister is taking it pretty hard, too. On top of it, they're really proud of me. They think I'll do very well.
What happens after you've signed up, but before you're off to boot camp?
There's a lot of physical stuff. They want you to be in tip-top shape, obviously. They expect you to run a certain number of miles in a certain number of minutes, so many push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups. The process is very long, with a lot of background checks. You fill out a ton of paperwork. Once I get to Fort Benning, I'll have a lot more paperwork to go through.
Did you fill out a will?
I have that option once I'm in the Army. It's a program I can set up.
Has there been a moment where you're like, "What the hell did I get myself into?"
Not really. I know what's to come. What I'm really freaked about is boot camp. I don't know what to expect. Looking at videos doesn't really cut it.
What do you hope to get out of being a combat medic?
The reason I picked that field is because it's something I can do once I get out. A combat medic does the same job as a civilian paramedic. It's something I can make a career out of. I've always been interested in doing that. On top of it, I'll be helping soldiers. I'll always be there with my platoon. We'll be the ones to take care of them. That's a great sense of pride for me, knowing that their lives are in my hands.
You're leaving for boot camp in less than three hours. What's going through your head?
I'm not really thinking anything, but it's going to hit me real soon. I'm going to really miss my friends and family.
Given the chance you'll do a little time in Iraq, what are your thoughts about going to war?
It's bunch of mixed feelings. It's mostly nerves, but yeah, I'm scared. Hey, if people are going to be shooting at you… Of course you're going to be scared. But hopefully I can overcome that. Hopefully I can make it through safely. That's all I can ask for.