Former Stuart athlete discusses military service

DAWN BLASENGAME | Submitted PhotoTraynor Blasengame, a 2016 Stuart graduate and former multi-sport athlete, recently began his position as a sergeant in the Oklahoma Army National Guard. 

Traynor Blasengame knew a promotion was coming, but his new position still feels different to him.

The 2016 Stuart graduate learned last year as a specialist in the Army National Guard he would be promoted to sergeant, and he began his duties on Aug. 1. Blasengame, a former baseball player, basketball player and runner at Stuart, is serving in the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in Norman. 

"It's really weird being promoted and having to go from following orders to being the one to give orders," Blasengame said. 

Some of the orders Blasengame gives are orders he received from those higher on the chain of command. He said he oversees some people who are older than him and more experienced than him, but called it an honor to be handpicked for the role.

Blasengame said he always tries to be a sponge during drill time and learn all sorts of things to be a jack of all trades. He added that his willingness to learn and help others was one of the reasons he earned the position.  

He developed an intrigue for the military when he was a little boy. His mother, Dawn, said he had G.I. Joe action figures and equipment when he was a kid. He said he watched different shows about the military, such as "MASH." Blasengame also knew it was a good fit to pay for college and help out with his future. He thought he could more for himself and his career in the Army than he could in the other military branches. 

Blasengame enlisted in 2014, and went to basic training during the summer of 2015 at Fort Sill in Lawton when he was going into his senior year at Stuart. His absence that summer was tough on his family. 

Weeks on end had passed without him talking to his family members. They wrote one another letters, but Blasengame's letters from home were being withheld for much of basic training. He started receiving them more often after passing the White Phase of his training. 

Blasengame would also earn the privilege of brief phone calls, but there'd never be a set time when these calls would come. Dawn Blasengame said she slept with her phone so as not to miss her son's call.

"It's torture!" she said. "Mothers should get medals." 

Traynor said people doubted he would able to last basic training that summer, but he didn't quit, and his family made sure that wasn't an option.

"I'm not in the military, but he grew up with a drill sergeant-type father," said father Tracy Blasengame, the superintendent of Stuart Public Schools. "Me being his principal all of his life, I expected more of him than every other student." 

Traynor found it a culture shock when he returned to high school for his senior year. He was more serious, with things being less nonsensical than before. Traynor suffered a ruptured appendix during a basketball tournament at Eastern Oklahoma State College, but still made it back in time when the Hornets when back to state for the second straight year in 2016.

He made it to state in the 1600 as a junior in track, and competed in regionals in cross country as a senior. Traynor also made to state in fall baseball as a center fielder with the Hornets in 2012 and 2013.

Traynor said undergoing basic training changed the way the Hornets worked as a team when he played for them. He discussed the importance of functioning as a team in the military, and he gave his high school teammates information how to perform as a leader or follower. Traynor said this helped Stuart out and more success followed.

He is scheduled to go back to his duties towards the end of the month to get ready for September. He also is about to enter his senior year at East Central University Aug. 19. Traynor is learning about environmental health safety and safety compliance.

His studies at ECU could go on hiatus if he ends up being deployed. He does not know when he'd be deployed, or if he will, but it could be later this year. Possibilities of deployment include Egypt, Kuwait, Ukraine and Iran. He would be with an aviation unit and giving ammunition support to infantrymen. 

Traynor said he would undergo premobilization training before his deployment, which would last around 300 days.

"That's what I raised my right hand for," he said. "If it means putting off my graduating, then I'm 100 percent fine with that." 

Contact Corey Stolzenbach at cstolzenbach@mcalesternews.com

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