Whether in combat or the home front, Brooks Schild has answered the call wherever needed in a military career spanning three decades.
Now, the Yankton man has achieved one of the top leadership ranks in the state’s military organization. He was recently promoted to Command Sergeant Major (CSM) of the 1st Battalion, 147th Field Artillery with the South Dakota Army National Guard.
“I’m 100 percent honored, and I told them when I accepted this position that I was humbled and honored,” he said. “I’m being entrusted with 400 soldiers in our battalion, making sure that we’re prepared for our mission.”
Schild said he officially received the promotion in September, but the formal ceremony was held last weekend in Watertown.
“It was a regular drill weekend,” he said. “On Saturday afternoon, we had a change of authority ceremony. My wife, Joan, pinned my rank on me and gave me a hug afterward. It was great to have my family there to witness the ceremony.”
The “change of authority” ceremony contained an important ritual, Schild said. “They have a ceremony with a saber sword, which is a symbol,” he said.
During the ceremony, the saber is passed from the outgoing to the new command. “I opened up the saber, inspected it and then closed it,” Schild explained.
While the ceremony was symbolic, a top SDANG official said Schild has taken on very real responsibilities in the military operations.
Schild formerly held the rank of sergeant major, said Lt. Col. Anthony Deiss with the SDANG in Rapid City.
“Since this is considered a ‘command’ assignment, his rank will change to a command sergeant major,” Deiss told the Press & Dakotan. “As a command sergeant major, he is the battalion’s senior enlisted soldier, responsible for advising the unit commander, Lt. Col. Steve Siemonsma, on all aspects of the battalion’s enlisted soldiers, providing guidance and mentorship to those soldiers, and assisting in ensuring the unit is prepared to handle all assigned missions.”
Schild will play an important role in the SDANG’s overall command and operation, Deiss said.
“The 1-147th FA provides mission command and supervision for three units: the Headquarters Company in Watertown, Alpha Battery in Aberdeen and Bravo Battery in Yankton, with approximately 400 soldiers in three communities throughout South Dakota,” Deiss said.
“They assist assigned units in meeting training, administrative and logistical requirements to maintain unit readiness in support of their state and federal missions.”
Schild has actually served two different stints in two different states.
He joined the Iowa Army National Guard (IANG) in January 1990, serving with the Combat Support Company of the 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry, at Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Schild left the IANG in 2000 and moved with his family to Yankton. In 2005, he joined then-Charlie Battery of the 1st Battalion, 147th Field Artillery in Yankton as a Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) section chief.
He deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, in 2005 and to Kuwait in 2009.
In 2014, Schild was selected as 1SG of Bravo Battery, 1/147 Field Artillery in Yankton. He was then appointed to the Area Operations Sergeant of Headquarters Company, 196th Maneuver Enhanced Brigade in Sioux Falls.
A Yankton native, Schild attended Beadle Elementary School, Yankton Middle School and Yankton High School. He graduated from Dakota Wesleyan University of Mitchell in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in secondary education. He earned his master’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Omaha in 1998.
The Schilds taught in Council Bluffs, Iowa, for 12 years before returning to South Dakota in 2000.
Brooks Schild teaches science at Yankton Middle School and coaches high school varsity football and track. This school year marks his 32nd year of teaching.
Schild sees all of his life roles coming together. He emphasized that point during his change of authority ceremony and at other times.
“When I talk to the soldiers, I explain to them that we’re truly one big family,” he said. “I have my personal family, and I love them all, just like anybody would be with their family. I also teach my students, who are like my kids; and I coach football, and all of my players are part of my family.”
In the same manner, the military represents another family, Schild said.
“The Guard members are my brothers and sisters in the Army. We’ve got each other’s back,” he said. “We make sure we take care of each other and are looking out for each other. We’re making sure that we’re ready to go for any mission.”
Schild admitted the recent change of authority ceremony brought back very vivid memories of a special family member: his brother, Rich, who lost his life in 2005 during the Baghdad mission. Brooks and Rich were serving together, and Brooks escorted Rich’s body home for the funeral.
Brooks said his brother was destined for command sergeant major.
“Rich, guaranteed, would have been in that (CSM) spot a while ago. He was on the track to be in this position,” Brooks said.
However, Brooks recently experienced Rich’s presence in a special and very real way.
“A couple of weeks ago, it was the first time ever I had a dream about Rich,” Brooks said. “In the dream, everything was chaotic — all these things were going on around me. But there was Rich, saying, ‘Don’t worry, it’s going to be all right.’
“It was really nice and pretty special to know he was near me and reassuring me.”
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