Sergeant Anthony Seybold and the other American soldiers on duty at the U.S. military installation in Vilseck, Germany, searched for hidden bombs, weapons, or contraband, knowing lives were at stake if a terrorist managed to get through their security check.
Seybold was far from the oak-tree-lined sidewalks of the IUP campus, where he had been working toward a bachelor’s degree in history when he was called to active duty through the Pennsylvania National Guard. While it may seem he sacrificed almost a year of his education when he served overseas from June, 2002, to February, 2003, he doesn’t see it that way.
“It’s part of the job,” he said. “That’s the duty of being a soldier in the U.S. Army. If another deployment came up tomorrow, I’d be prepared to go.”
He’s not the only student at IUP who stands ready to serve. Approximately two hundred Pennsylvania Army National Guard soldiers, like Seybold, are students at IUP. Additional students are members of other reserve components. There are also thirty-nine cadets in the Advance Course of ROTC. These are juniors or seniors who have made a commitment to serve as second lieutenants in the active Army, Army National Guard, or U.S. Army Reserve following graduation.
“Paratrooper training was one of the most exciting things I've done in my life...”
Lt. Col. Matthew Stanton, professor of Military Science at IUP, said it is gratifying to see the level of support the university administration, faculty, and staff give to those students who are soldiers in the local reserve component units and who are mobilized to support military contingency operations throughout the world.
The impact is particularly strong here in the IUP ROTC Battalion,” he said.
“We have cadets who deployed last year and are now coming back in the battalion after a year with their assigned units overseas. They bring with them some fantastic lessons learned and experiences that will make them even better leaders upon commissioning.”
In early December, yet another group of cadets at IUP was preparing for deployment to Iraq.
Seybold’s guard unit, C-Company, 1st Battalion, 103rd Armor, is based in Seybold’s hometown of Friedens, near Somerset. When not called to active duty, the unit trains one weekend each month and two weeks during the summer.
Seybold, who received specialized training as a gunner on the M1-A1 Abrams Tank, also went to U.S. Army Airborne School and underwent paratrooper training. “That was one of the most exciting things I’ve done in my life,” he said.
In Germany, Seybold’s National Guard unit was responsible for security at the U.S. base and in surrounding areas. Because he and his fellow guardsmen took on this duty, the soldiers normally stationed there were able to receive special training in preparation for deployment to the Middle East.
Although he missed being home for Thanksgiving and Christmas while overseas, Seybold, who likes to play ice hockey, stayed up to date on his favorite team, the Penguins, through news from his father.
After sixteen straight days on duty, Seybold would have four days off, which he used to travel as much as he could. He saw scenery that, a few generations ago, his German ancestors may have seen. As an IUP history major and the son, grandson, and great-grandson of veterans, he was especially moved to see Omaha Beach, where many soldiers died on D-Day during World War II. The cemetery there, which he said seemed many times larger than Arlington cemetery, was on the hill above the beach. The soldiers who lost their lives trying to get up that hill, he said, are now buried at the top of it.
“Thousands of people died there,” he said. “I was speechless.”
While in Germany, he and his friends in the guard unit used off-duty time to tour historic German castles and to visit Paris, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Czech Republic.
While his deployment did not take him to the front lines of the war, he was and is prepared to go wherever he’s needed and takes his responsibilities as a gunner very seriously. After graduating from high school in 2000 and receiving military training, he started at IUP in January, 2001. That year, he received the honor of 1st Place Battalion Soldier of the Year and then moved up to the brigade competition, where he was named 2nd Place Brigade Soldier of the Year.
On September 11, 2001, the news of the terrorist attacks and the crash of Flight 93 only a few miles from his home further fueled his determination to serve his country. In 2002, he was presented with the Battalion “Outstanding Enlisted Person” award. Along with his other training, he volunteered to take combat lifesaver training, which taught him basic battlefield first aid.
At IUP, where the initial ROTC classes are open to all students (with or without further military commitments), about three hundred students are in the Military Science Program. About 40 percent of them are women.
When Seybold joined the National Guard, it was mostly to pay for a college education. Since joining, his outlook has changed dramatically. While his college education means a great deal to him, so does his duty as an American soldier. He plans to serve in either the National Guard or active-duty Army for years to come.
“You gain so much maturity and discipline,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons why we have the greatest army in the world.”