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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

SHS senior balances high school, National Guard

Sunday, November 24, 2002

Tiffany Warren
SIKESTON -- Tiffany Warren is milking life for all it's worth.

The 17-year-old Sikeston Senior High student joined the National Guard in May, and in June 2003 she will leave for Advanced Individual Training (AIT) to train as a 31-Charlie Radio Operator/Maintenance at Fort Gordon, Ga.

"Ever since I was little, I would watch the television commercials of the people jumping out of airplanes and think, 'Wow! I want to do that!'" Warren said, who is a private in the 35th ID Missouri National Guard unit at Cape Girardeau.

Last June, Warren had the chance to live out her fantasy when she attended basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., for nine-and-a-half weeks.

"I learned a lot at basic training. It was so diverse and my stress level was maxed," Warren said.

For example, everything had to be just perfect for their commanders and if one person messed up, the whole unit was punished. Hangers had to be spaced two fingers apart and lockers organized just right, Warren explained.

Learning to work as a team and becoming organized were among the things Warren and the rest of her unit gained at basic training, she said.

"They show you what's important," Warren said. "Some people took it too mentally. But they really were teaching us to be all that you can be -- just like the commercial says."

Not having the simple things was the most difficult part of basic training, such as a stick of gum, taking a shower when you want or not having to brush your teeth in a hurry, Warren explained.

"You just have to tell yourself that you can't have it so there's no use in crying or getting mad. You have to adapt," Warren said.

Never mind the fact that she's a female, but there aren't too many 17-year-olds --male or female-- who know exactly what they want to do with their lives and have it planned out, especially since a majority of college students switch their majors an average of three or four times before they pick one for good. And Brigade Adjutant Captain Bill Irby of the 35th ID National Guard is aware of that.

"I was just very impressed. She seems very driven and focused. She has her whole career path lined out, and that's very commendable," Irby noted.

Being a C-31 is very specialized job, Irby continued. It's not like the job of a normal radio person, he said. The equipment is more advanced, he explained.

So far friends have been accepting and respectful of Warren's decision to be in the National Guard, she said, although some may not fully understand why Warren would want to take on so much responsibility as a teenager.

"Sometimes people will ask me why I'm doing this -- like it's a bad thing. I made a choice, and I'm happy. Whether I'm dressed in boy's clothes or girl's clothes, I'm happy," Warren said.

While her mother was a little leery about letting her daughter join the National Guard, Warren said that now her mother and father are very proud of her.

When Warren graduates from AIT after nine weeks of training, she plans to attend Southwest Missouri State University at Springfield in Spring 2004 and major in criminal justice. She hopes to someday be a professor or a probation officer. Eventually, Warren would like to attend Officer Training School.

Being in the National Guard is just something that has always interested Warren, she said. "I've always been a people watcher. I've seen people fail at things and I've learned what I can do differently," she said.

When Warren leaves in June for AIT, she will miss her senior class trip, but she has a positive perspective on the missed opportunity. A trip will always be there, she said. She can come back and take a trip when she wants, she reasoned.

"I like not being the norm, being different. I'm proud, I guess," Warren said about her involvement in the National Guard.

Warren knows the military isn't for everyone, and that's fine, she said. But the National Guard is not a place for people who don't know what they want to do with their lives, she said. "It's a career. It's a life," she noted.

Warren is involved in Red Peppers, A+ Program, Student Council as treasurer, Future Teachers of America president, art club, Teens Against Pollution Club as president and Students Against Drunk Driving. She's also been named Who's Who Among High School Students.

When asked if she was afraid of missing out on her last few months of high school, Warren replied, "Miss out on what? I've been to the football games and the dances. I'm ready to start the rest of my career."

She's happy to be a teenager, but she's also satisfied helping serve her country, Warren said. She smiled, "I get the best of both worlds."