Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Student, Runner, Soldier, Hero

Anthony ‘Blu’ Bongard, a 2007 graduate of Redwood Valley High School in Redwood Falls, MN, has had a successful yet untraditional collegiate running career.  After having success in high school, Anthony decided to pursue college running at South Dakota State University under coach Rod DeHaven.  Anthony had a pretty typical freshmen college year at SDSU and during that year made the decision to join the Army National Guard.  In the summer between Freshmen and Sophomore seasons Anthony completed Basic Training then began Advanced Training which led to him missing the next semester of school.  Anthony, a talented and motivated runner, returned with a vengeance in the spring semester and was a solid contributor for the Jackrabbits.  The next two cross country seasons saw Anthony garner All-Conference honors and also saw the Jackrabbits capture two team titles.  Anthony knew his National Guard unit out of Redwood Falls would be deployed to the Middle East sometime.  He was informed that his unit would deploy in early May, 2011.  He was able to compete in all meets up until the conference meet, where he was ranked 6th in the 5k and 5th in the 10k.  Anthony is now deployed for 400 days and plans to return to school and competitive running in the fall of 2012.  Here are a few questions that Anthony took time to answer for us.

1. Both running and military life require certain sacrifices. How are they the same and how are they different?

The major and only difference is that military asks you to put your life on the line. You can say that almost everything else is similar for running and the military if you look at it from the right approach.  A few similarities are: they are both demanding lifestyles you have to eat, sleep, and live every day for it.  They are both a team effort and you are only as strong as your weakest member. An example is, you can’t go and win a meet by yourself or you can’t complete a lot of tasks without your squad.  I am sure I could write an essay about this question. 

2. How hard was it for you to get deployed just before the conference track meet when you were ranked near the top in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters?

I had made up my mind about going on deployment after the fall semester.  So I knew I wasn’t going to make it to the outdoor conference meet.  I tried talking to my leadership so I could participate but we had important tasks to get done before the deployment.   I am sort of glad I didn’t compete at the outdoor conference meet.  My performances leading up to conference were subpar in my eyes.

3. How is training in Kuwait? Is there a safe place to run or do you find yourself on a treadmill or running laps often?

I just started serious training about a week ago. Kuwait is a safe zone so almost anywhere on base you can run.  The base only has a perimeter that is 6 miles long.  Right now I haven’t made it more than one time around.  It is nice to run on the treadmill once in while because you can at least listen to music and watch TV while you run. There are also have 5k’s on holidays that people run. It is just like any other road race but with a lot of Army gray tops and black shorts. 

4. Prior to deployment you were a multiple All-Conference performer in Cross Country and Track. Have you met anyone else with a similar story?

We have your, “rec. Runners” but no one that I have met has a college running background. 

5. What is the attitude of your officers and fellow soldiers towards running?

My leadership loves it because I am the fastest guy on post, it makes them look good.   For my fellow soldiers it is impossible to find anyone to run with me. One, they are either afraid to run with me because I am fast or they can’t keep up. Two, most of them HATE running. They either go to the gym and/or sit watch movies in their down time.  It is a little hard to motivate yourself to run the same loop day after day.  I know it is going to take a lot of self-motivation and discipline to get where I want.

6. What are your goals, in running, school, and life, when you return from deployment?

To honestly tell you the truth I would like to be an All American once before I graduate.  I know it is going to take a lot of hard work and dedication but I hope to get there in XC or Track. 
For school right now is just finish what I started and maybe sneaking in with my degree. 
Right now I am rolling with the punches when it comes to life.  I have quite a long time before I graduate college and finish my eligibility. I am sure in my final semester I will have better idea.
When I return home I am hoping I can find a summer job and start some serious training.

7. What do you most look forward to on leave and when you return for good in June?

Good food and a beer or two.

8. There will have been two classes graduated and two classes of new freshmen. How do you think the team will be different when you return next fall?

Really different! I am going to be the oldest guy on the team but at the same time a new member.  I feel like it is going to be like freshmen year all over again.  I am hoping that the younger team members can step up like we did and help bring back the Conference Championship to SDSU.

9. Has deployment taught you any important lessons or changed the way you look at life at all?

To honestly tell you the truth I am not sure. I don’t think I have changed too much but people back home might think I have changed a lot.  I am just taking it day by day and hoping that it will be easy to transition back into regular life. 

We wish Blu the best of luck as he finishes his deployment and transitions back into civilian life in June.
If you want to ask Blu other questions about deployment or send him a word of encouragement he would love to hear from you.  Here is his email address:  arbongard@jacks.sdstate.edu

If you would like to send him a letter, package, or anything else his address in Kuwait is:

Anthony Bongard
C co 1-34 BSTB
Apo-AE 09330

1 comment:

John Franzen said...

Nice work Kyle! A great snapshot of Blu's thoughts and feelings about the deployment and life after. We can't wait for you to get back Blu!