Looking for a hand in paying for his advanced schooling, Story Medical Pharmacy Director Paul Groteluschen turned to the National Guard. While he knew the GI Bill would provide for him financially as he studied pharmacy at Creighton University, he had little idea how his service in the Guard would impact his life.
Now, on this Veterans Day, as he reflects on his service, he can’t imagine life without the Guard.
"I guess that’s why I’ve been in for 30 years," Groteluschen says. "It is hard to quit something you love."
Groteluschen enlisted on May 21, 1985. Today he continues to serve as the Battalion Commander for the 109th Multifunctional Medical Battalion out of Iowa City. He is responsible for approximately 320 soldiers. The battalion’s main responsibility in combat situations is providing "Role 2" medical coverage – essentially retrieving injured service members in the field, assessing their condition from an aid station and then either providing basic primary care or transporting them to a more intensive level of care.
And while Groteluschen has never been deployed overseas, he views his work with the Guard as vital in ensuring U.S. troops are ready for service whenever and wherever it is called for.
"Our motto in the battalion is ‘Save to Serve Again’," he says. "Battalions like ours are called upon to do that on active duty in combat, while at other times our focus is on preparing to assist the citizens of Iowa when called upon by the governor during natural disasters."
Among the roles Groteluschen has played state-side was in commanding the medical unit that processed soldiers getting ready to deploy to active war zones. It was in that position, Groteluschen says, he was almost sure he would be called to serve overseas.
"I’ve never shied away from serving in a combat zone," he says. "There were several times I told my wife that we needed to prepare for that eventuality. It has just turned out that I was needed more here than in a war zone. I’m not afraid of a deployment and if I was called upon today to serve overseas, I would be ready to go."
Preparing for war isn’t all Groteluschen and his fellow Guard members do. They are key personnel on a statewide level in responding to natural disasters and other large-scale challenges. "We play a role both in the state and on the federal level," he says.
Groteluschen, who with wife Lori has two children, says there are tremendous benefits provided by Guard members like him.
"Citizen Soldiers like me come from all walks of life," he says. "We are pharmacists, farmers, physicians, construction workers, everything. When we are called upon, we bring in a lot of skills from our everyday life that we can apply to issues that arise in a combat or crisis situation. It’s a win-win that we are able to bring tools and skills from both sides of the fence."
And he says the lessons he has learned in the Guard have helped him in his professional life.
"Being in the guard, both combat arms and medical units, has helped me grow," he says. Groteluschen has served Story Medical for 17 years. "It has helped me with everything: communication, leadership, planning, decision making, confidence, teamwork, trusting your instincts...everything."
He says it is a bonus to put his military skills to work day-in and day-out as a pharmacist in service to those specifically in Nevada, eastern Story County, and more generally in Iowa and the nation.
"I grew up in a small town a lot like Nevada," he says. "Being here reminds me of home. Small communities are a wonderful place to live and work."