St. Paul, Minn --
Joining the military out of high school is often driven by different factors for a young person. Paying for college, adventure, world travel and even becoming a part of something bigger than yourself often play into the decision to raise your right hand and join.
For Staff Sgt Erin Barry, an airfield systems craftsman with the 210th Engineering Installation Squadron of the 133rd Airlift Wing, the willingness to serve came early. She joined the military during her senior year of high school at the early age of 17. The inspiration to join came from a long history of military service in her family.
"My grandfather was a World War II and Korea Veteran along with my father being in the military during the controversial 1970's era as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne," said Barry. "I'm the first female in my family to join the military. My father informed me that the Air Guard paid for college tuition and that it could change my life, which at the time I didn't understand. What originally started as a way to pay for school turned into some of the finest moments of my life."
Barry attributes some of her success and resiliency to the wingmen she has met along the way.
"Staff Sgt Kaitlyn Linde joined the 210th Engineering Installation Squadron just a few days before me at the same age of 17," said Barry. "We had never met before that. We weren't in the same flight in basic, but she did see me getting yelled at by the military training instructors. We ended up going to technical school around the same time in Biloxi, Mississippi, and ended up becoming friends, being from the same unit and area."
In the National Guard you can quickly become family with those you serve with. For Barry it was easy to connect with the wingman she met since the very beginning.
"Our unit ended up deploying to Afghanistan in 2012 and again my "twin" ended up on the same team as me," explained Barry. "Some days over there were very tough or stressful, having a best friend to go through everything with me meant the world to me. It's amazing what bonds you form through the military and we even stay in touch to this day."
The memories the two women forged included everything from deploying and gaining rank together to helping another Airman in an emergency.
"On our deployment to Afghanistan together a fellow member of our team smashed his finger between two boulders," said Staff Sgt. Kaitlyn Linde. "We immediately jumped into action to transport him to the base hospital as fast as possible. I was so impressed with her composure and quick support to our fellow airman. She helped keep the mood positive and supportive as possible, Barry is someone you want to have by your side in any situation."
"Some of the best memories of my life are those deploying with Barry, she had the ability to always see the positive in any situation and could always keep the mood upbeat and the moral high," said Linde.
Experiences in the Air National Guard can vary from person to person and depend on job and unit, but a commonality is the friendship and 'guard family' many of the members of the 133rd Airlift Wing form during their membership there.
"It was a chance to see parts of the world you wouldn't see otherwise," said Barry. "Life should be an adventure and being in the military gives you that. I was able to see the world - to places like Alaska and Afghanistan. It is a smart choice for your future."
To find out more about Staff Sgt Erin Barry and the 210th Engineering Installation Squadron visit: http://www.133aw.ang.af.mil/units/210eis/index.asp