Paintball leads to enlistment to follow in father’s footsteps

Pfc. Adrianna S. Apelt, assigned to Charlottesville-based Charlie Company, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Combat Team, assists with training during drill with the Recruit Sustainment Program July 20, 2019, at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, Virginia. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Sgt. Lisa M. Sadler)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — As soon as Pfc. Adrianna S. Apelt put on her father’s old Army uniform to play paintball, she knew.

“I saw myself in the mirror and realized this was what I was supposed to do,” she exclaimed. “It just fit!”

Two months later, during her senior year at Heritage High School in Newport News, Virginia, Apelt joined the Virginia Army National Guard.

Apelt’s father retired as a wheeled vehicle mechanic in the U.S. Army and her grandfather served in the U.S. Air Force. She enlisted as a 68W Combat Medic Specialist.

“I enlisted because I wanted to do something bigger than myself and I wanted to protect and serve my country,” Apelt stated. “I joined the Army specifically because it’s what my father did, and I did not think following in his footsteps was a bad idea.”

Following her enlistment, Apelt was assigned to the Charlottesville-based Charlie Company, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, commonly called “Charlie Med,” and started drilling with the Recruit Sustainment Program at the State Military Reservation, near Virginia Beach, Virginia, in March 2018.

“I was highly impressed with her,” said Staff Sgt. James Bishop, RSP readiness noncommissioned officer. “She’s just so disciplined. You can identify someone right away who is going to be a leader at some point in their life, and she is definitely one of those people.”

Apelt excelled in Basic Combat Training and even served in leadership positions. She credits the RSP and the training she received there with her success.

“I feel like the RSP is so beneficial,” she said. “What you are learning here is what is going to help you and prepare you. It’s also going to make you a good Soldier.”

The transition from BCT to Advanced Individual Training was a little bit more challenging for Apelt. With so much freedom, she says it was easy to get distracted and lose focus.

“Soldiers need to push themselves. It’s physically demanding, but the biggest challenge is that you have to mentally prepare yourself,” Apelt said. “It’s hard being away from home.”

Apelt, who attended AIT over 1,500 miles from home at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, said adjusting back into civilian life was a little difficult.

“It can be mentally exhausting, but if you push yourself and you have something to look forward to and work towards, you’ll get through it,” she said. “You have to have faith in yourself, faith in the system. Be motivated and stay positive.”

As soon as Apelt finished AIT, Bishop asked her if she would teach a class at her RSP drill before reporting to her unit.

“He called me and said, ‘I would like you to come in and teach our first aid class,” she said. “I was very excited and honored. It felt great that Staff Sgt. Bishop trusted me to do this!”

“She’s an E-3 and I am tasking her with training this weekend,” Bishop said. “She is confident in her abilities and I can ‘t speak enough about her character. She’s going to be a good Soldier and a great leader.”

Pfc. Adrianna S. Apelt, assigned to Charlottesville-based Charlie Company, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Combat Team, assists with training during drill with the Recruit Sustainment Program July 20, 2019, at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, Virginia. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Sgt. Lisa M. Sadler)