Why I Serve | Staff Sgt. Shanice Buckhalton

If you asked Staff Sgt. Shanice Buckhalton asked why she decided to join the Minnesota National Guard in 2013; the answer would have been a common one: college benefits.

Five years later, at a recruiting event, Buckhalton, who is African American, discovered that her reason for “why” had changed.

“In the Minnesota National Guard, not many leaders look like me,” she said.

Several young girls approached her that day in the Boys and Girls Club of Saint Paul. They asked if her uniform was authentic and if she was really in the military. The girls couldn’t believe she was a Soldier.

“That day stands out to me, and it’s been my ‘why’ ever since,” said Buckhalton.

After graduating from Shakopee High School, she enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard as a Human Resource Specialist. After six years of drills, she deployed to Kuwait with the 834th Aviation Support Battalion.

While overseas, she learned more about herself and the importance of being able to depend on her fellow Soldiers.

“You’re placed in these situations where sometimes you have no choice but to trust the people around you, and you learn a lot about people in those moments,” Buckhalton said.

Last year, she served as a squad leader in Norway during the 50th Anniversary of the Norwegian Exchange, or NOREX. The experience created memories that will last a lifetime, from jumping into a frozen lake in the mountains to working with a counterpart who was the only female to volunteer for NOREX.

The thing Buckhalton enjoys most about the Minnesota National Guard are the people she’s met and served with. People whom she probably never would have talked to if not for enlisting.

“The bonds you make are indescribable.”

Buckhalton works full-time as an Active Guard Reserve member for the Joint Force Headquarters in St. Paul. The position has allowed her to work with senior leaders in the organization.

“I’ve learned from so many incredible leaders, and I can take that with me for the rest of my career,” she said.

Each February in the United States, our nation celebrates Black History Month to highlight the achievements and contributions of African Americans, both past and present.

For Staff Sgt. Buckhalton, the observance provides Americans an opportunity for different perspectives.

“This observance gives people a chance to learn about a culture other than their own; it gives them opportunities to learn and ask questions about topics that may otherwise be seen as uncomfortable,” she said.

And what would she say to those young girls at the Boys and Girls Club if they approached her today and were considering enlistment?

“I would tell them that they can do anything; the National Guard can be an incredible opportunity that can open many doors for them.”

Staff Sgt. Bob Brown
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs