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In Hardin, students weigh future with Army recruiters

Teens hit the track to walk for Goggins challenge
Posted at 6:59 PM, Mar 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-12 11:26:16-04

HARDIN — Walking 48 miles in 48 hours isn't easy, especially if you're carrying a 35-pound rucksack.

It's what two soldiers from Billings Army and Army Reserve Recruitment are trying to do over the next three days at several area high schools, with the goal of showing how the military has strengthened them. Their first stop Monday was Hardin High School, hoping to tap into Montana's Native American population.

“We wanted to incorporate our local schools and get students, faculty, staff, interested in participating as well,” said Sgt. First Class Caleb Bright of Billings Army and Army Reserve Recruitment.

Hardin High students and teachers had the chance to join Bright and Staff Sgt. Kyle Muniz as they walked four miles carrying rucksacks around the school's track.

"Doesn't hurt to try," said 16-year-old Hardin High sophomore Lyle BrightWings before he hit the track.

16-year-old Hardin High School sophomore, Lyle BrightWings

The Goggins Challenge entails walking four miles every four hours for 48 hours.

"It’s going to be 12 stops total,” Bright said.

Hardin was the first stop of several schools where recruiters gave students a peek into what a future in the Army might look like at a time when recruitment is a challenge.

According to the Department of Defense, military services collectively missed recruiting goals by about 41,000 recruits last year, and attracting new soldiers has been a struggle for years.

“I like running and yeah, I think doing it for the Army would be pretty fun,” chimed 16-year-old Hardin High sophomore, Gregory OldBull.

Lucky for Bright and Muniz, their first stop was a great choice.

Hardin High School students and staff accompany Army Sgt. First Class Caleb Bright and Staff Sgt. Kyle Muniz as they walk around the school's track.

Native Americans have the highest per-capita enrollment in the U.S. military. It's five times the national average for enrollment of any other ethnic group.

“My brother went to try to go to the military since we were little, and now, it’s my turn,” BrightWings said.

“I feel like when I get older, I could be like one of these guys, and come over here,” added OldBull.

It's a future these kids are considering, especially after walking a mile in these recruiters' shoes.

16-year-old Hardin High School sophomore, Gregory OldBull

“We got pushed out of our lands and stuff, so, you know I got to at least try to do something to fight for it too,” said BrightWings.

After their stop at Hardin High, Bright and Muniz carried the challenge to Laurel High School and closed out the day at the Adaptive Performance Center in Billings.

They'll begin the challenge Tuesday morning at the Adaptive Performance Center, and then will visit Billings Senior High School and Billings Skyview High School at 8 a.m. and 12 p.m., respectively.

On March 13, they'll visit Billings West High School to end the challenge at 8 a.m.