Nearly 80% of soldiers currently serving in the Army have a relative who also served, according to U.S. Army Recruiting Command. So Dallas Neumiller’s story is a common one.
He’s the son of a soldier, the father of a soldier and a veteran himself.
John Neumiller, Dallas’s father, was a farm boy of 19 in Heaton, North Dakota, when he received his draft notice in late 1944. While Allied Forces were succeeding in Europe and Japan, the nation did not know the war would end soon. The United States was still in war-time posture, maintaining the armed forces in the continuing conflict against Nazi Germany and Japan.
Dallas said his father was inducted into the Army and sent to basic training somewhere in Texas.
“They were short of ammo and were using bolt action rifles,” Dallas said. “They had to balance a dime on their sights and work the bolt action without dropping the coin. That’s how he taught me to shoot.”
After basic training, John was in San Diego, California, waiting for a ship that would take him and others to the Pacific Theater. But before they boarded their ship, Japan surrendered and WWII came to an end. Still, Dallas said, his father’s ship sailed on to the U.S. territory of Guam – a major air and naval base for bombers who attacked Japan near the end of the war.
Dallas said his father did clean-up work in Guam before breaking his leg and being sent to Hawaii for rehabilitation. After transferring to a Denver, Colorado, hospital, John went home on leave once to get married and again for the birth of his first child – Dallas. His father bought a small farm in Heaton, North Dakota, and became a rural mail carrier. He died at age 81 in 2005.
Becoming a soldier himself
In 1966, during the height of the Vietnam War, Dallas received mail ordering him to report for a pre-induction physical. While the country implemented a draft to fill service quotas then, Dallas had a temporary student deferment from active duty.
At the time, he also worked with a part-time recruiter for the North Dakota Army National Guard who told him of the benefits in joining. So on Aug. 11, 1996, Dallas enlisted.
He completed basic training at Fort Bliss, Texas, then moved to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, for combat engineer training.
“Ninety-eight percent of the guys I went to basic training with all went to Vietnam,” Dallas said.
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He served with the Army Guard until October 1977 then transferred to the North Dakota Air National Guard.
“It took me some years to adjust,” Dallas said. “The Army and Air Force were so different.”
During a weekend drill in December 1990, the Air Guard asked for volunteers to fill vacancies at state-side bases for personnel being sent to the middle east in support of Operation Desert Shield. Dallas volunteered and was serving at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, by the end of January 1991.
He returned home in May for two weeks for a family emergency, then returned to active duty at Shaw. Desert Shield turned into Desert Storm. Desert Storm ended quickly, and Dallas returned to his home unit in North Dakota. He remained on active duty a few months more before completing 17 years in the North Dakota Air National Guard.
Like father, like son
Matthew Neumiller was 18 years old when he joined the North Dakota Army National Guard. He was studying industrial engineering at the University of North Dakota when he volunteered to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Matthew was assigned to Bagram Air Base in Bagdad. According to Dallas, Matthew served 12-and-a-half years in the Guard before moving on in his civilian career.
Dallas has enough memories of his father’s, his son’s, and his own military service to seed a North Dakota wheat field.
He remembers his last operational readiness exercise and inspection with the Air Guard. He was placed in the unfamiliar role of managing the base shuttle bus transportation operation and succeeded famously.
“I got a lot of atta boys on that inspection,” he said. “Probably the highlight of my experience.”
He credits his experience in the Guard for teaching him leadership and decision-making skills. Skills he used as an employee of the J. R. Simplot Company, an agrobusiness company headquartered in Boise, Idaho.
“The first year with Simplot I was assigned to projects at the bottom of authority,” he said. “My experience in the Guard carried over to Simplot. In the Guard, you had to very quickly evaluate your decisions, and how it affected things. How’s this decision going to effect everything in the long run. You had to make good decisions on the run. If the Air Guard called me back today for a special project, I’d be there right now.”