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FROM READERS: Deployments bestow Columbia veteran with lessons in resilliency

Friday, April 25, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT
Maj. Jamie Melchert has deployed twice overseas since joining the Missouri National Guard in 1998. He credits his military experiences for providing him with lessons in resiliency.

Jeremy Amick is the public affairs officer for the Silver Star Families of America and a Missourian reader.

Though recognized as an American Red Cross “Lifesaver” last year, Jamie Melchert maintains he did not receive the award as a form of personal accolade, but instead as a reminder of the accomplishments of the soldiers with whom he has served.

“During our deployment to Afghanistan (in 2012), we experienced several attacks,” said Melchert, 43, Columbia, a major in the Missouri National Guard.

“I was just glad that we were able to do our jobs and return home safely with every soldier we left with,” he added.

A native of Sedalia, Melchert’s military journey did not begin immediately after high school; he chose first to try his hand at a college education.

Enrolling at Central Missouri State University in 1988, Melchert switched his pre-law major to journalism — an educational move he believed would provide a greater level of excitement.

Graduating in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he worked briefly for the Sedalia Democrat, but was soon hired by the Macon Chronicle-Herald and soon reported on a natural disaster which brought him face-to-face with the Missouri National Guard.

“I was working as reporter/photographer covering the Great Flood of ‘93,” he said. “I hooked up with a Missouri Guard unit from Macon that was working on the levies between Hannibal and Palmyra. … That’s when I first got to know the Guard and their mission.”

The budding journalist later worked public relations jobs in the Columbia area before transferring to the Department of Higher Education where a co-worker (who was in the Guard) suggested Melchert should consider the military.

“In 1998, at the Columbia Armory, I enlisted,” Melchert said. “The Guard’s involvement in serving the community during floods and tornado recoveries really interested me.”

Since he already had a college degree, Melchert enlisted as an officer candidate and attended basic training in the spring of 1999. He then embarked upon a two-year program consisting of monthly drills and “summer camps,” during which he learned duties associated with becoming a military officer.

He completed his officer candidate school in August 2001, at which time he was pinned a second lieutenant and, a month later, assigned to the 1035th Maintenance Company in St. Louis — just days following a major event in U.S. history.

“September 11 happened … and here I was a new lieutenant with no experience,” Melchert said. “I was scared to death,” he added, smiling.

Employed full time with the Columbia Missourian, he continued to drill with his unit, but in 2001 received an offer that led to his full-time employment as a public affairs officer at the Guard’s headquarters in Jefferson City.

He later discovered that his previous unit in St. Louis was being mobilized for war, which inspired him to volunteer to deploy as one of their platoon leaders.

“The news I received was that they were going to Iraq and needed officers,” said Melchert. “I knew most of the soldiers in the unit and thought that if I were going to be mobilized, I’d rather go with a group of people I knew well.”

From early 2005 through May 2006, the unit served in both Iraq and Kuwait repairing vehicles and assisting with the loading of boats with equipment to be shipped back to the United States.

Once stateside, he continued in his full-time job at state headquarters and was attached to a local unit, but in late 2007, returned to St. Louis where he spent the next 2-1/2 years as the company commander.

His employment again shifted directions in October 2008 when he was attached full time to the Combined Support Maintenance Shop (CSMS) — still at the state headquarters — where, as a maintenance manager, helped oversee the operations of several maintenance facilities throughout the state.

But in 2010, he was assigned to the 1138th Transportation Company in St. Louis as the commanding officer, and the following year was on his way overseas for his second deployment — this time to Afghanistan.

“We were providing escorts for the delivery of goods to different military bases throughout the country,” Melchert explained.

Though Afghan truck drivers hauled the supplies, Melchert’s company would escort the trucks to ensure the supply chain wasn’t attacked or goods stolen.

He returned to Jefferson City and his full-time job at the CSMS in mid-2012, and now serves part time as the support operations officer with a local unit, while also pursuing his MBA with Columbia College.

With two overseas deployments now to his credit, Melchert is grateful for the experience he has gained and the lessons learned, all because of his decision to pursue a career in the Missouri National Guard.

“I’ve had many opportunities to travel the world and I would never have seen these places otherwise,” he remarked.

“And although there have been times when I’ve been in awful places and in very difficult situations, the military inspires you to learn from these experiences, to become resilient,” which, he added, “ … has given me the ability to bounce back from challenges.”

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This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.


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