Minnesota National Guard Soldier reflects on his service and heritage

Born in Busan, South Korea, Army Sgt. 1st Class Chad Escher moved to the United States at the age of 14 when he was adopted by the family of Jeri and Dwayne Escher. He was raised in Garden City, Minnesota, and enlisted into the active-duty Army in July of 1995 at the age of 20. His mother was the influential reason that he pursued a career in the military, Escher said.

“My mother Jeri thought that it was a good idea,” he said. “So, I decided to join the active-duty Army to gain direction, purpose, and experience that I lacked in life at the time, and I am glad that I listened to my mother.”

He was the first in his family to serve in the United States military. His biological father served in the South Korean Army after the Cold War, as the nation was and still does practice conscription for males over the age of 18, he said.

Escher’s first job in the military was as a fire support specialist and forward observer. He was stationed in Baumholder, Germany, from 1995 to 1999. From December of 1995 to November of 1996, he was deployed to Serbia on a peacekeeping mission.

“After the breakup of Yugoslavia and its civil war from 1992 to 1995, peacekeeping missions were conducted under a one-year mandate from 20 December 1995 through 20 December 1996 under the codename Operation Joint Endeavour,” he said. “We moved into Serbia and established the Lodgment Areas LISA, DEMI, and MOORE with multiple check points across the countries with an artillery footprint to provide peacekeeping operations between Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia.

One of the most memorable moments of that deployment, Escher said, involved a three-to-four-day convoy from Croatia to Serbia. U.S. Soldiers, engineers, had built a floating bridge on the Sava River that connected Croatia to Bosnia. There were over 50 tactical vehicles on the movement, Escher said, and after crossing the floating bridge, thousands of Bosnians welcomed U.S. troops while waving the American flag, he said.

“This was a very special moment for everyone with the purpose of offering hope and peace to Bosnians to rebuild their country,” Escher said. “At that moment, I knew that serving in the military is not just a job but it’s an honor and a privilege to be part of the armed forces. To this day, I am very proud to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.”

In February of 1998, Escher headed back to Bosnia-Herzegovina for a deployment that lasted until October of that year. The mission was continued peacekeeping, and Escher had the opportunity to work with Solders from other nations.

“I had the privilege to work with the Norwegian, Danish, Polish, Swedish commanders and Soldiers at Camp Doboj, Bosnia,” he said. “It was an amazing experience working with them and to share our experiences with the mind set of ‘one-mission, one-team!’”

Before leaving active duty, Escher decided to enlist into the Minnesota National Guard as a supply specialist so that he could pursue other goals.

“I had a goal to finish college and continue military service and education to gain experience in logistics,” he said. “I moved back to the states to Eagle Lake, Minnesota, then moved to Mankato and worked on my degree in wireless communications while serving with the 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry Regiment as a supply specialist and unit supply sergeant.”

In 2005, Escher married his wife Rachel, whom he met in Manhattan on a blind date. The couple have three children, Nathan, 17, Ethan, 15, and Annabel, 12. Eventually, his family moved to Hermantown, and then Woodbury where they currently reside.

Escher deployed three more times with the Minnesota National Guard. From 2007 to 2008 he deployed to Kosovo, working as a unit supply sergeant. The mission was to provide security and freedom of movement to the citizens of Kosovo throughout their territory, Escher said.

“I was privileged to be part of the Kosovo’s declaration of independence in 2008,” he said. “I learned so much about their culture and this was another successful deployment with amazing experiences while maintaining a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all of Kosovo’s citizens.”

From 2011 to 2012, he was deployed to Kuwait, again as a unit supply sergeant. The mission for this rotation, Escher said, was to provide a reaction force and security during the start of the drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq. Having never been to the desert, the experience was eye opening for him, Escher said.

“Trying to acclimate to the Kuwait environment was challenging at times because the temperature was at an extreme level with occasional sandstorms, which was something I had to adapt to for whatever mission came my way,” he said.

Escher again returned to Kuwait for a deployment from 2018 to 2019, where he served as the battalion logistics operations noncommissioned officer in charge. The mission again was to provide security and stability in the Middle East. This experience taught him a lot about planning and executing a larger mission, he said.

Outside of multiple deployments, Escher has sought other opportunities to develop relationships with his fellow service members. In the summer of 2013, he volunteered to be a part of a ‘Spur Ride’ while he was serving with the Duluth-based 1st Squadron, 94th Cavalry Regiment.

“It’s a calvary tradition for the cavalry scouts and Soldiers who are qualified in their jobs and serving with the cavalry to volunteer and conduct a Spur Ride, which is performed to test cavalrymen on their knowledge of scout tasks, grit in the face of physical and mental adversity and the perseverance required to see a mission through,” he said. “I volunteered to be part of the Spur Ride, to be a part of the family culture. I earned the silver spurs after completing all the required events. It’s an honor and a privilege to be part of the calvary culture and it was an amazing experience, something I will never forget from start to finish.”

He was also a part of the first National Training Center rotation in 2015 with the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, and the 34th Infantry Division.

“The NTC rotation was the most difficult part of my military career I’ve ever experienced as a battalion operations noncommissioned officer in charge,” he said. “It also came with a greater amount of success and accomplishments. It was a privilege and honor to be part of this history with the Red Bulls, successfully completing all the mission requirements and to be part of the elite mission ready unit!”

Currently, Escher works as a senior supply sergeant in Saint Paul with Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, Joint Force Headquarters. Preparing to retire in 2025, Escher is wrapping up his military career and enjoying time with his family.

“We have a get together with our families, whether it’s at our home or theirs,” he said. “It brings great family diversity, and we really enjoy that time together. It is one of the greatest blessings we can have. I have a very loving and supportive family starting with my dad who retired from teaching and coaching, three sisters, and two brothers. I am very lucky to have them.”

His reason for continuing to serve for so long, Escher said, is his passion for what he does.

“I love serving and have great passion for what I do in the military,” he said. “The military gave me direction, purpose, experience, and career management in the areas of logistics, operations, and supply chain management, which I really enjoy doing.”

Observing Asian Pacific Islander month in May, Escher said, is an important reminder of what members of the Asian community have contributed to their country.

“It is important to recognize and honor all those Asian American Pacific Islander Soldiers and civilians who served and contributed, and sacrificed their life in the U.S. Armed Forces,” he said. “Also, it is a time for the celebration, commemoration and appreciation of their heritage and culture.”

Story by Sgt. 1st Class Sirrina Martinez
Minnesota National Guard