Attending a drill while on leave from Afghanistan might not be on the list of things to do for some soldiers, but that’s exactly what Spc. Kerry A. Franklin of the Missouri Army National Guard recently did.
Franklin, 22, of Rock Hill, serves as a truck driver with the 1138th Transportation Company, which is headquartered at Jefferson Barracks in south St. Louis County. The unit is six months into a one-year deployment, performing convoy operations in support of coalition forces throughout Afghanistan.
While on leave, Franklin decided to assist National Guard recruiters with a Recruit Sustainment Program (RSP) drill at the Festus Armory. Recruit sustainment provides new National Guard recruits with valuable training on military structure and drill before they attend basic Army training. The realistic taste of Army life helps National Guard recruits more easily make the transition from civilian to soldier.
An RSP graduate herself, Franklin admits her willingness to lend a hand at drill was partially motivated by the fact that both her fiancé, Pfc. Roger Holmes, and her brother, Pvt. Aaron Franklin, also participated; Holmes as a training assistant and Franklin as a G Company recruit.
“My brother enlisted while I was deployed so I wanted to get him squared away,” Franklin explained. “Then my fiancé enlisted and went through the program, and I thought it would be cool to have the three of us together. Plus my brother is just a private so I can give him lots of trouble.”
So while home from a war zone for rest and relaxation, Franklin spent most of a recent very chilly Saturday crouched in a brush pile, portraying an enemy combatant about to attack a squad of fellow soldiers that included her brother. And despite a tremendous urge to smear her sibling with a paintball gun, Franklin showed mercy and targeted another soldier instead.
“I was tempted,” Franklin admitted, “but I wanted to see how my brother would react to hostile fire so I got the soldier next to him.”
Franklin believes the Recruit Sustainment Program will benefit her brother as it benefited her.
“Just getting used to wearing the uniform is beneficial,” she said. “When we got to basic training, there were people who didn’t know the difference between the combat uniform and the physical training uniform. Because of RSP, I was already 10 steps ahead of the soldiers who did not go through the program.”
Franklin’s transformation from a civilian to a war zone veteran brings a smile to the face of Staff Sgt. Missouri National Guard Jonathan Edmonson, who is her RSP coordinator in Festus. At one time, Edmonson had serious doubts that Franklin would ever make it in the military.
“She was so quiet and reserved,” Edmonson said. “And she barely made the height and weight requirements. But then I put her in charge, and the quiet little blond girl just disappeared. Kerry has become a leader and an awesome soldier.”
A 2008 graduate of Cor Jesu Academy, Franklin has been studying psychology and communication disorders at Truman State University and plans to continue her education when she returns from deployment this summer.
“My fiancé and I are planning on staying in the Guard for 20 years,” Franklin said. “But I do want to finish my degree in psychology and work with kids in the foster care system or at a center for behavioral disorders.”
Spc. Franklin is the daughter of Kevin and Coleen Franklin of Glendale.
This article was submitted by Bill Phelan, a public affairs representative of the
70th Troop Command of the Missouri National Guard.