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Bravo troop soldiers from Denison Armory provide reconnaissance on the front line

The National Guard Armory in Denison looks like many other buildings in the area. If it were not for the words “Texas National Guard” on the creme brick walls of the building, it would look more like business than an active part of the U.S. Military. Despite its simple looks, there is more to the building on Loy Lake Drive than first appears.

The Armory is home to the Bravo Troop of the Third Squadron of the 124th Cavalry Regiment of the Texas Army National Guard. The troop’s primary mission is providing reconnaissance and surveillance and sending back information to the infantry and other forces on the battlefield.

“We draw the picture of the battlefield,” said Staff Sgt. John Warren. “We draw a picture of what is out there and what the forces behind us will be fighting.”

Warren, who enlisted in 2008, has been stationed at the Armory for almost a year. In his six years of service, Warren has served one tour of duty in Afghanistan. He is one of three active-duty soldiers who are stationed at the base.

Last week, the soldiers of Bravo troop held their summer training on Fort Hood. This year’s training included individual weapons qualifications and other team-base training scenarios. Scenarios included a simulated hostile contact that must be broken, and the location and retrieval of a downed, unmanned aerial vehicle, said Warren.

Warren said he has seen people enlist in the National Guard for many reasons — some enlist for the benefits, while others look join looking for a way to serve the country.

“I’ve seen people who want to be a part of something bigger, but still want a normal life,” he said.

Spc. Dustin Burkhalter spends one weekend a month, and two weeks a year, training alongside the other soldiers in Bravo. During the week, Burkhalter is the athletic director at Savoy High School.

“It was always something I wanted to do,” said Burkhalter, regarding his decision to enlist in 2012 at age 30. In discussing his options for military service with a recruiter, Burkhalter said the National Guard was the best choice considering his age, and family life.

When Burkhalter enlisted in 2012, his wife was four months pregnant with their second child. He said the greatest challenge for him was being away from his family and being limited to communicating through handwritten letters.

“She made a major sacrifice when I went (to basic training),” said Burkhalter.

In balancing the two sides of his career — as a teacher and as a soldier — Burkhalter said he could see a correlation.

“They teach me leadership skills that I can take back to teaching or coaching,” said Burkhalter. “The kids will ask questions, especially about when I got back from basic last year.”

Since enlisting, and bringing back stories from his training, Burkhalter said two of his former students have decided to enlist in the National Guard and are currently going through training.

Warren said reservist soldiers have to “wear two hats.” Soldiers in the National Guard must fulfill their duties in the armed forces and “then come home, turn that off, and go back to a normal lifestyle.”

“It can be very difficult,” he said.

Much like its soldiers, the armory itself has worn many hats throughout its life. From its opening until the 1970s the armory served as the home for a engineering troop, before converting to a tank unit. In 2000, the armory changed to its current form, housing the cavalry unit it does today.

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