Aschingers share military experiences with students
By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor
Each year, Scott Boylen and his seventh grade futures class students invite people from the community to speak about their careers, jobs and education and training. On May 8, husband and wife Mike and April Aschinger joined the class, relating stories and information about their time in the Army.
Together, said Mike, he and April have 26 years of military service, with 13 of those on active duty. They have both served overseas and in Iraq, where they met.
Mike is currently a first sergeant in the 104th Timberwolf Division in the Army Reserve. He said he’s “like a union rep,” responsible for the morale, welfare and discipline of 144 soldiers. He has a bachelor’s degree in social science and a master’s in human services, with an emphasis on executive leadership. Through the Army, he has been a combat engineer, motor transport operator and a retention and transition non-commissioned officer (NCO). Mike is also a patrol deputy for the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office and a QPR (Question, Persuade and Refer) mental health trainer.
April is a staff sergeant in the Army Careers Division and explains benefits to soldiers and helps retain them. She is also her commander’s “eyes and ears” in two units for 300 soldiers. She has a bachelor’s degree in health services administration and has been a petroleum support specialist and Army Reserve career counselor. When not participating in Army activities, she is a stay-at-home mom for the couple’s three children.
“The Army is like the Walmart of the armed services,” Mike told the students, referencing the branch’s large, diverse force. “I’ve gotten to meet people from this whole nation. This country rocks. Tour it and meet people.”
Mike and April also advised the students to be thankful for what they have, things like clean water and the right to vote. They showed photos of dirty drinking water in Iraq, as well as photos of women going to school and voting for the first time.
April shared a story from her time in Iraq about convincing an Iraqi boy that women were strong. He didn’t think a woman could be a soldier, she said, so he kept pinching her, to make her say it hurt. April admitted that it did hurt somewhat at the end, but she was not about to give in.
“I like that story because it helps you realize that your toughness and what you can do are not limited by how you were born,” Mike said, referencing gender, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status. “Put effort in, work for things and learn about what you don’t know.”
After their presentation, Mike and April answered questions from the students. Some of the students asked about drill weekend activities, what it’s like to get shot at, the number of guns used, the uniform, the military haircut, things the couple doesn’t enjoy about military service and if they had any family members who have also served.
Mike said he is the first in his family to serve, but April said she comes from a family full of service members, dating back a number of wars. Her grandfather, who she said was her hero, was a prisoner of war in Italy during WWII.
Mike said he’s shot pretty much every gun not mounted to a vehicle. There was one time, when passing an enemy truck filled with explosives, that he thought he was going to die.
To end the session, the Aschingers let the students try on some of their gear, which they said can get very heavy. Once, explained April, by the time she was suited up and had her backpack on, her equipment weighed about as much as she did.