Please give a brief description of what you do in the military. Where do you serve? How long? What do you do?
For starters, my name is Sgt. Jordan Helming. I am married to Dr. Luralyn Helming from the Dordt Psychology Department. I must say up front, I have never deployed overseas or been involved in any sort of combat.
I currently am a Food Operations Sergeant. I serve with Forward Support Company, 153rd Engineer Battalion, South Dakota Army National Guard. I have been in the National Guard for 4 years. I supervise a small team of approximately nine cooks, who specialize in feeding soldiers in our battalion in an austere field environment. We have personnel and equipment to feed approximately 800 soldiers, 3 meals per day out of a converted ISO shipping container.
Last year, our unit was awarded the Army Award for Maintenance Excellence by the Army Chief of Staff, General Ray Odierno. We also received our second consecutive Superior Unit Award from the South Dakota National Guard, and for a second year in a row, our battalion received the Major General Milton A. Reckord Trophy as the most outstanding Army National Guard battalion in the nation for achieving the highest standards in training and readiness.
I currently attend Sioux Falls Seminary full-time, working to become a chaplain in the National Guard.
What has given you the greatest joy in serving? What has been the hardest part?
My favorite things about the Army are the tradition, the camaraderie, and Basic Combat Training. I know that sounds weird, but I really enjoyed most of Basic. We exercised, shot weapons, went “camping”, and did obstacle courses. You leave Basic with discipline, fearlessness, excellent physical condition, and an overwhelming sense of accomplishment! In the military, you make some of the closest friends you will ever have.
The hardest part was probably cook school. You see, I was dropped off at the airport by Dr. Helming and our then-9 month old son, Josiah. Saying goodbye to those two for 10 weeks was immensely difficult. It was while I was at cook school that Dr. Helming was hired by Dordt College, so we were trying to coordinate moving to a new state while I was far away at Ft. Lee, VA, with very limited personal time.
Another difficult part is losing family time. I have already missed many birthdays and anniversaries. Drill weekends have a funny way of interfering with your personal life.
What is one thing you’d like non-military people to know about serving in the military?
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 18-22 veterans commit suicide EVERY DAY. This is double the rate of the general population. The Army instills a culture of mental toughness and self-reliance which is needed in combat, so soldiers struggle to turn to others for help in combating PTSD and depression. Talk to them, care for them, and love them! And if you know any service members, care for their families. Military spouses are left to take care of children, maintain a household, and give up family time, birthdays and anniversaries during drill weekends, training, and deployments. Despite not signing up for the military, Dr. Helming certainly makes sacrifices for the military, as do all military spouses.
How have you experienced God’s presence while serving?
I can still recall the first few days of Basic training which are called “Reception”. Please bear in mind for this story that I attended Basic at what is regarded as the easiest of training sites: Fort “Relaxin’” Jackson, SC. I got approximately 10 hours of sleep over the course of 4 days, never showered, had all of my hair cut off, and received 6 vaccinations in 90 seconds. I was deeply regretting ever joining the military.
Then you arrive at your company for Basic Training to an event known as “shark attack”. The first two weeks, known as “red phase,” are a continuation of this concept of breaking you down, to be built back up, or as the Army says, turning civilians into soldiers. We were constantly being yelled at, doing disciplinary exercise, and getting limited sleep. Near the end of “red phase,” I attended the Protestant Chapel service for the first time. The only way to describe the worship is to say it felt like breathing for the first time. You can physically feel stress, anxiety, and pain being removed by our sustaining God. I was reminded that God alone sustains me, provides for me, and carries me. It really put Basic, and life, in perspective.
Near the end of Basic training, our Chaplain baptized 27 soldiers for the first time. Being stressed to the max makes God’s grace that much sweeter.
Thank you to all who have shared their stories on iAt this week. You can read the rest of the “I Served” series here.