National Guard service the right fit for Rushford resident

Errin Daniels has more than 8 years of service in the National Guard
Chad Smith

Errin Daniels will celebrate eight years of service with the National Guard this May, and the Rushford resident is showing no signs of stopping. “I started with a six-year hitch,” she said in a phone interview. “I signed up for another six years after that. I just can’t see myself leaving the people in my unit.”

Daniels serves as a truck driver in the National Guard with the 134th BSB Box Company. Saying the words “truck driver” to a civilian might bring to mind an 18-wheeler. With a laugh, she said, “It’s called a PLS, or Palletized Loading System. It’s a rather large truck (five wheels on each side) with a flatbed and a hook arm on the back.

“The hook arm goes up and you can control it from inside the cab,” Daniels added. “It drops the bed onto the ground and then you can load things onto the flat rack. Using that hook arm, you then pull the bed back onto the truck and haul away.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can Google it and find a YouTube video that shows you how it works. It’s so cool.”

When people enlist in the National Guard, they can typically choose the job they want, as long as their Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test scores qualify them. “I thought driving trucks sounded like fun,” Daniels said. “By way of comparison, I have a friend in the Guard who deals with interviews and interrogations. Her test scores had to be very high to do that job.

“She trained for more than a year to do that work.  I trained for six weeks when I learned how to drive the trucks.”

So, what’s she transporting when she’s at work for the National Guard? Her payload goes boom. “With my current unit, we support Field Artillery,” she said. “That includes mortar men and Howitzers, as well as tanks. We haul 1-5-5 live rounds of ammunition to the batteries.”

Camp Ripley in Little Falls, Minn., is one of her frequent destinations. Ripley is a 53,000-square-foot military and civilian training facility. Daniels has also spent time driving a truck at a two-week summer training at Fort Hood, Texas. 

Enlisting in the National Guard was always on Daniels’ mind as she was growing up. “I never did anything about it,” she admits. Then her sister invited Daniels to come and talk to a recruiter when Errin was “19 or 20 years old.” The recruiter came to meet them at their house.

“Before I knew it, I was signing the paperwork,” she laughed. “Getting it in front of my face pushed me over the edge because I wanted to sign up with them anyway.”

For the most part, National Guard duty is still one weekend a month and two weeks a year. She typically ends up working four days a month just because Field Artillery has a lot of items to transport.

While Daniels’ unit is based in St. Peter, Minn., it features a roster of people from the tri-state area. “There’s a guy from Trempealeau [Wis.], there’s a couple from Mankato, Savage, Chaska, Madelia, and a lot of other spots all over the state,” she said. “I drive a little over two hours to get to St. Peter.”

Daniels works a regular job at Menards in Winona, Minn., which she says is very good about giving her the time off for her National Guard responsibilities. “I appreciate them being flexible and letting me do this because I’ve heard of some employers that aren’t so supportive,” she said. “As long as I tell them my Guard schedule and give them enough notice, they’re very happy to support this.”

Though her unit hasn’t been deployed, Daniels is always prepared for the possibility.  “When you go through the process, they typically announce to the unit that they could potentially be deployed,” Daniels described. “They tell you not to make any big life decisions like quitting your regular job, don’t go buy a car or anything like that.

“A couple of months typically go by and then that unit will find out for sure if it’s activated for deployment. If the unit is going somewhere, they’ll give you a specific date when you leave. Deployment is typically six months to a year.

“In my old unit we were notified of a possible upcoming deployment. That was a couple of years ago. However, nothing came of it and they took the possibility off the table.”

Daniels grew up in Cottage Grove near the Twin Cities. She moved to Rushford four years ago and bought a house. She says her parents are very supportive of her service. Her 19-year old cousin just joined her unit as well.

Will the Guard be something Daniels makes a long-time career? “Yeah,” she said. “It’s a strong possibility.