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Feature Stories

NEWS | June 22, 2020

Service in the Family

By Story by Sgt. Sydney Mariette 34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade

A father, a sister, and two brothers. The Grams are not only a family by blood but are also brothers and sisters in arms. These four members of the Grams clan have all served in the Minnesota National Guard with Grams senior, (RET Sgt. 1st Class) Harlan Grams, having served 24 years and sister Olivia Grams serving in the Air National Guard as a Staff Sgt. for six years before hanging up the uniform. Now only Chief Warrant Officer 2 Marshall Grams and Sgt. 1st Class Garrett Grams continue to serve, but Sgt. 1st Class Grams says having that shared experience means a lot to him and his family.

“We understand the sacrifices that are made and the hardships that are put on our families,” said Sgt. 1st Class Garrett Grams. “It brings us closer together that we all understand the sacrifices that are made to be a member of the military, to go to trainings and deployments, and we all try to stick together to help each other out when we can.”

At home, Sgt. 1st Class Grams works fulltime for the Minnesota National Guard as the Readiness Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) for Foxtrot Company, 1-189th General Support Aviation Battalion. While serving on his first deployment to the Middle East in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Spartan Shield, he serves as a platoon sergeant for the same company, affectionately nicknamed “Fox Co.”.

“As the platoon sergeant for an air traffic control platoon, I supervise 15-20 Soldiers and ensure that flight operations are going well,” said Sgt. 1st Class Grams. “I’ve really enjoyed my time [with this unit] and I appreciate that my brother helped me with the decision to be in Fox Company.”

He is referring to his decision to enlist in the Minnesota Army National Guard, which his brother, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Marshall Grams, encouraged him to do.

“I always knew that I wanted to be in some type of service and it just felt right to me to be in the National Guard and come back to Minnesota after my initial training to serve where I lived and help my community along with our country as a whole,” said Sgt. 1st Class Grams. “My brother influenced my decision to join the Minnesota National Guard because he had joined right after high school and liked what he was doing with Fox Company and in aviation.”

Since then, Chief Grams has moved on to becoming a pilot with Alpha Company, 2-147th Assault Helicopter Battalion. The brother’s individual units fall under the same brigade and so when the 34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade began the mobilization process in the fall of 2019, both the brothers prepared to deploy together.

“Serving with my brother in the National Guard we cross paths quite a bit,” said Sgt. 1st Class Grams. “Because our [air traffic controller] mission is to serve the pilots and make sure they come into landing zones or airfields in a safe and orderly manner… I talk to him quite a bit about how, from the pilot’s perspective, we can be better as air traffic controllers.”

The conversation flows both ways between the brothers, as they encourage each other to develop as leaders during this year away from home.

“Sometimes he gives me advice on how to be a better leader and sometimes I can give him advice from the NCO perspective on how to do that stuff too,” said Sgt. 1st Class Grams. “We don’t always necessarily serve together at the same location, but we do talk a lot about what we’re doing and how to be better Soldiers, better leaders, and how to serve the brigade better.”

Sgt. 1st Class Grams says he is thankful to deploy with his older brother because they have grown closer as professional peers and as brothers.

“It is kind of nice to be able to have that connection a little bit more than maybe some other people,” said Sgt. 1st Class Grams. “Because our wives are back home dealing with the same stuff, same troubles, same issues, and we just try to help each other out while we’re over here as best we can.”

While still being a unique scenario, it is not uncommon for family members to serve shoulder to shoulder in the U.S. armed forces. Siblings follow one another in raising their right hand to swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States and thus military families are created, sometimes happening in a single generation. According to Sgt. 1st Class Grams, his family’s extensive service record in the Minnesota National Guard is a tribute to the quality of the organization as a whole.

“I love what I do and putting on the uniform everyday really brings me a sense of pride in myself, so I did encourage [my sister] to join along with my brother encouraging me to join,” said Sgt. 1st Class Grams. “I feel like it does say Minnesota [National Guard] is probably doing something right that they keep bringing in family members because they wouldn’t bring in close people if it wasn’t the right thing to do.”