Elmore County High School’s Class of 2020 produced more Alabama Army National Guard enlistments than any other high school in the state, according to National Guard recruiter Sgt. Jonathan Benton.
The school saw 10 of its recent graduates make the commitment to serve in the military. Another ECHS student, Kameron Ledbetter, a rising senior at the school, joined the National Guard during his junior year.
Six recent Wetumpka graduates also made the decision to serve their country.
These young adults are currently completing 10.5 weeks of basic training before heading off to Advanced Individual Training for eight to 15 weeks depending on what job they have. After AIT, they will attend training sessions one weekend per month unless they are called to serve.
The process will be a bit different for Ledbetter who still must compete his senior year. He will return to school in August and will attend training once a month. He won’t compete AIT until after he graduates.
“These young adults all have big plans in their future and are some of the most motivated soldiers I have been around,” Benton said. “The future of our state and country are in good hands.”
The National Guard enlistments from ECHS are: Kacie Blume; Alexus Esco; Savannah Taunton; Brandon Aguilar; Jordan McNeil; Brock Willis; O’Neal Estes; Jennifer Williams; Abby Middlebrooks; Tavares Pierson and Kameron Ledbetter .
Blume is following in her brother’s footsteps by becoming a military police officer, while Esco and Taunton chose the same military occupational specialty, transportation management coordinator, and will be placed in a unit that is going to Poland in Spring 2021. They will also go to basic training together.
Willis and Estes are best friends who chose to pursue utilities equipment repair and will also go to basic training together. Estes’ father is a member of the Alabama Army National Guard, so he feels he has some big shoes to fill.
McNeil also selected utilities equipment repair and hopes to will follow in the footsteps of his uncle who is a first sergeant in the National Guard. Aguilar is joining his brother Jason who is already a member of the National Guard and chose the job of light wheel vehicle mechanic.
Both Williams and Pierson chose to be signal support systems specialists, and Pierson plans to pursue a career in the communications field. Middlebrooks, who may be only 4-foot-10 but is said to have the heart of a giant, chose to pursue automated logistics.
The National Guard enlistments from WHS are: Gauge Parette; Chloe Jones; Harley Devine; Damion Garcia; Terisa Holt and Kristen Whitlow.
Like Ledbetter, Holt and Whitlow also joined as juniors and are both athletes at WHS. Holt is a cheer leader and Whitlow is a softball player. They both chose to go to the same unit and their training will focus on food service. Once they start college, they plan to transfer into the medical field. They, too, will complete AIT after graduating from high school.
Parette joined in the fall of his senior year and was a football and baseball player at WHS. He was the starting pitcher on the baseball team but was only able to pitch one game before COVID-19 claimed the remainder of his senior year. He decided to pursue utilities equipment repair.
Jones has a full academic scholarship to Troy University, but she also wants to serve her country with the goal of becoming a federal law enforcement officer. She will begin her journey as a military police officer.
Devine plans to work in the intelligence field with her chosen path being intel analyst. Garcia plans to have a career in IT so he chose computer detection systems repair as his job.
“Out of all the different assignments I’ve had in the Alabama Army National Guard, being a recruiter is definitely the most rewarding,” Benton said. “I get to help develop our nation’s next generation of soldiers. With all that is going on in the world, you would never imagine that there would still be so many 17 and 18 year olds that want to join the military. The Alabama Army National Guard is very fortunate to have all of them on our team. They all bring so much to the table and we couldn’t be more excited.
To learn more about the Alabama Army National Guard, Benton can be reached at 334-452-5006.