Meet PFC Dillon To.
Not only is To a U.S. Army All-American, but he is also a U.S. Army soldier.
Before beginning his last year on tuba for the Roosevelt Rough Rider Marching Band, To spent his summer at Fort Bennington, GA beginning his career in the Army National Guard. The 18-year-old Des Moines student has his eyes set on a future in the military and wasted no time getting started.
To is in the Army National Guard Infantry, primarily working with javelin gunnery. (For those keeping score at home, Parent Unit C Co. 168th INF 34th ID, Current Unit: A Co. RSP). He graduated from basic training on August 13th and will attend a 4 week-long Advanced Individual Training (AIT) next summer to further prepare for his job in the infantry. Although he is only a year into his 6 year commitment, he says that it is a “really adventurous job,” seeing as only 4% of soldiers go into the infantry. Out of the many job options the Army provides, To pursued the infantry because “it’s both physically and mentally challenging,” which his martial arts background helped prepare him for.
As a part of his commitment to the National Guard, To dedicates one weekend a month, and two full weeks a year to drills and training. The Average National Guard Soldier works full-time in the office, the field, or classroom of their civilian job before reporting to their part-time drills on the weekends and summers. To makes the same commitment, but with a twist. The soldier-student is balancing his dedication to the military along with the usual stresses of being a high school senior. Underneath the camouflage uniform, he’s just like any other student approaching graduation. His calendar is filled with SAT dates, college application deadlines, and possibly even an upcoming prom. He makes light out of his heavy schedule though, saying, “I just like keep myself busy, I just can’t stand still.”
Military drills and lengthy trainings aside, To is presenting college application boards with an impressive resume. He holds a part-time job as a Tai Kwon Do instructor, is a 2nd degree black belt, serves as the Cadet Captain and Company Commander for his JROTC program, and participates in three music ensembles at his school including marching band, jazz band, and honor band. Although marching band is only a small sliver in the crazy schedule of To, he thanks his four years in the Rough Rider Marching Band for preparing him for his busy life. Because of the long rehearsals and extreme attention to detail required in marching band, he says he has become better at time management and has become a more adaptable person.
Although To has many influential people in his life to thank for his success so far, his band director Mr. Treg Marcellus is at the top of his list. Thanks to the help of Mr. Marcellus who pushed him beyond his limits, To now has a unique opportunity at bowl week. He says, “It is a huge honor that I could represent the Army in another way out of uniform” and combine his two passions of music and the military. He is incredibly humbled to not only be selected as an All-American, but also to be the only 2016 All-American currently serving in the Armed Forces.
After the stadium lights are turned out and the excitement of bowl week is over, To will return to business as usual. He will continue to teach Tae Kwon Do and lead his JROTC cadets up until graduation before he leaves for AIT training in the summer heat. To has not replied to any college acceptances yet but he has his eyes on a few in the Midwest area. Regardless of where he chooses to study, he plans to major in international relations and participate in the ROTC program. Once he obtains his degree, he hopes to be commissioned as an Army officer to begin yet another era of service with the Army.