Local brother and sister share Army experience

By Elizabeth Sias

Keith Holznagel, of Ogilvie, joined the Army almost two years ago. Just seven months later, his younger sister Samantha enlisted in the Army Reserve.

With his little sister leaving this summer for basic training, Keith has been sharing his experience and giving advice to Samantha.

Keith Holznagel joined the Army almost two years ago. Seven months later, his sister Samantha Holznagel, enlisted in the Army Reserve. Photo by Elizabeth Sias

Keith, 20, enlisted in the Army in March 2010. He knew it was something his sister Samantha would be interested in, so he started talking to recruiters in Cambridge. When he brought Samantha with him in October that same year, she enlisted in the Army Reserve the next day.

“I enlisted because I wanted to do my part,” Keith said. “College really wasn’t for me. It’s something I’ve just always wanted to do.”

He completed infantry school at Fort Benning in Georgia and was on leave shortly during the holidays. Next he heads to airborne school. From there, he’ll ship to North Carolina, where he’ll try out for special forces.

Samantha, 18, has known she wanted to enlist since third grade, when her class did a report on what they wanted to be when they grew up. She leaves July 3 to Missouri, where she will complete basic training and advanced individual training, or AIT. She’ll be in a unit called CBRN, which stands for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear.

As part of the Army Reserve, Samantha will have time to attend college fulltime. She plans to go to St. Cloud State University, most likely to study law enforcement.

“I think my experience in the Army Reserve will look good on an application and help with school, and lead a path to where I want to go,” she said.

With one in the Army and one in the Army Reserve, Keith and Samantha spend a lot of time talking about what they’re looking forward to. And in Keith’s case, he shares his experiences with his sister and gives advice.

“I tell her what to expect when she goes to basic, and what not to do so she doesn’t get in trouble,” Keith said.

“’Do what you’re told’ is a big one,” Samantha said.

A typical day of basic training began with waking up at 4 a.m., Keith explained. They’d get in formation at 4:30 a.m. for two hours of physical training. Then they headed to the dining facility for breakfast before heading out for the day’s training. Lunch would be brought to them, or they’d eat an MRE — Meal Ready to Eat — a meal in a sealed plastic bag.

“Everybody says they’re horrible, but they weren’t that bad,” Keith said. “And you get about three or four minutes to eat a meal, so you learn to eat fast.”

Participating in swimming, basketball and softball, Samantha already considers herself athletic and it excited for basic training.

Keith said he enjoys the challenges presented in the Army, and both siblings enjoy the competitive nature.

“It’s a constant challenge every day,” Keith said. “It gives me a sense of pride.”