Name: Zach Taillie, Class of 2018
Hometown: Phoenix, NY
Undergrad: SUNY Cortland
Fun Fact: I’ve been in the Air Force for 6 years.
You may not believe this, but NASCAR Technical Institute is a bit of a dead-end school. You read that right—there is a school completely dedicated to folks who want to learn about race car maintenance and occasionally take them for a spin. It is a one-year program outside Charlotte, NC, and was what I thought I wanted to do. While the program set me up for an awesome career as a tire technician at Sears Auto while living out of my parents’ basement, I decided I wanted more out . I found myself over at the Air National Guard office, and in December of 2009, I enlisted.
Once I was done with my training and learned that I could get school payed for while serving in the military, I was stoked to get started. Little did I know that when it comes to school and military duty, school usually doesn’t win. The biggest mission we undertake in the Air National Guard is state-level disaster response. My first emergency response was to a winter storm, and to my surprise, I was told by my supervisor that school takes a backseat to duty. I remember feeling frustrated at the situation, but once I showed up I realized how much of a positive impact we could have. The feeling of helping out and giving back to those who needed it far outweighed any disappointment at missing classes or balancing class all day with working at night. Luckily, I was blessed with great professors who would email me notes and allow me to reschedule tests if necessary. This understanding and flexibility allowed me to respond whenever the call went out, and it allowed me to still excel in school.
The military hasn’t been all rough, though. During one of my winter breaks, I was sent to Germany for training. I spent Christmas in Kaiserslauten, New Years in Berlin, and my birthday in Amsterdam. Even when I wasn’t out exploring Europe, I was able to have fun at work coordinating air drops (think Humvees and supplies hopping out of planes) with the 86th Airlift Wing. I’ve had the opportunity to deploy to the Middle East and serve with coalition troops from all over the world and make some lifelong friends. Oh, and having part of school paid for is another perk!
Although I originally thought I wanted to make a career of the military as an officer once I graduated from college, I stumbled upon physical therapy during my junior year and fell in love. Due to a shoulder injury, I was able to experience what it was like to go from injured back to working out and wanted to give that gift to others. Fast-forward a couple of years, and here I am: at Regis fulfilling me dream! Currently, I serve with the 153rd Airlift Wing up in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I go up once a month and spend at least half of my breaks working. Luckily, my drill schedule and our finals week seem to always coincide…so I get the opportunity to test how long I can stay awake and study. Two semesters down, and I’m still here!! While I listen to my classmates plan super rad trips for our summer break, I’m looking forward to two weeks of work connected by a drill weekend. All things considered, though, I would do all the same given another chance. I work with some great people and get to do things for my job that most people only see in movies: riding on C-130s, running through live shoot houses, firing some pretty awesome weapons, and watching live gun runs from planes overhead. The military/civilian balance can be a challenge at times, but it’s one that’s well worth it!
If you have any questions about balancing school with the military, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.