MINOT AIR FORCE BASE Being in the military is a family tradition for Erik Foss.
His father and his grandfather are among family members who have also served.
Foss enlisted with the North Dakota Air National Guard April 14, 2007 before he graduated from Max High School that year.
Today, Foss is a full-time training instructor for the 219th Security Forces Squad-ron, a unit of the N.D. Air National Guard, at Minot Air Force Base.
On March 6, he was honored for his work with the 219th when he was presented the N.D. Air National Guard's Outstanding Airman of the Year. His award is for an airman with the rank of airman basic to senior airman. Foss is a senior airman. He received the award at an Air Guard banquet in Moorhead, Minn.
Earlier Foss was named the 219th's Outstanding Airman of the Year and became a finalist for the wing-level award. But he didn't know until the March 6 banquet that he had won the wing-level award.
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The speaker at the banquet was formerly assigned to the 91st Missile Wing at Minot AFB Chief Master Sgt. Mark Brejcha, now 412th Test Wing command chief at Edwards AFB, Calif. Brejcha was command chief for the Minot missile wing from 2006-2008 and during his time there, the N.D. Air Guard started the 219th at the Minot base.
In his job with the 219th at Minot AFB, Foss does rotating cycles working in the missile field with the missile wing active-duty forces for three months and then three months of work back on base.
"When I work on base I'll work in our training section. When we get new airmen out of training or someone that's new to the unit I will do their initial training on the missile field," Foss said. He does the training only for the 219th.
Members of the 219th started going to the Minot missile field on Dec. 17, 2008. "I was the first to go out," Foss said.
Of Air Guard members and active-duty Air Force members working together, he said it's taken some transition. "But all in all, it's working out very well. We've cultivated a pretty good relationship with the active-duty Air Force," Foss said.
He explained why he joined the Air Guard.
"Originally, I was planning on going to college in Arizona and I've always wanted to do the military thing in some way, shape or form. It was either active-duty Air Force or Army or Army Guard," Foss said.
At the time he said he didn't know there was Air National Guard. "But when I found out about it I thought I could do that serve my country, go to college and become a mechanic. But once I got into the training I realized I wanted to do it for a living one weekend a month," he said.
After graduating from high school, Foss went to basic military training at Lackland AFB in Texas. He also graduated from Security Forces Academy in November 2007, receiving the Distinguished Graduate Award.
"Once I got back I came up to the Minot unit," he said.
Of being with the 219th at the Minot base, he said, "It's been great, it's been a good opportunity, also my family's a half-hour away. I'm from Douglas, I went to school in Max."
Of Foss being selected for the state award, Capt. Penny Ripperger, of the 119th Wing Public Affairs, said his selection was based on his military performance and community involvement, as well as an interview in Fargo with leadership from various areas in the N.D. Air Guard.
"It's definitely a big honor and kind of a challenge as well make sure I challenge myself to continue to perform as best as I can and meet the high standards of what I'm expected to do," Foss said.
Foss said the career he has chosen is very satisfying to him. "I don't think I could find the same satisfaction with any job in the civilian sector that I could do," he said.
But as far as joining the military, he said one of the reasons for him is because of a long line of military members in his family.
"My dad (Richard C. Foss), retired Air Force, and his dad (Oscar O. Foss) was World War II. My dad was a Vietnam veteran as well, my grandfather was an Army medic. It's kind of a family tradition," Foss said,
"I grew up with a sense of patriotism and it's filled that need," he added.
His dad was stationed at Minot AFB for awhile. Both of his parents are from North Dakota his dad from Fessenden and his mom from Garrison, he said. "When my dad retired they came back here."
Foss has gone with the Air National Guard recruiter on several occasions to visit high schools, including Max High School, to talk about the Air Guard.
Currently, Foss is attending Park University at Minot AFB, working on his bachelor of arts degree in business management.
Besides working on his college education, Foss also does volunteer work in Minot.
Foss is in his first six-year enlistment in the N.D. Air National Guard. He reaches the half-way mark of his enlistment April 14. "I'm sure I'll be re-enlisting once those six years are up," he said.
"I think it's a great opportunity, whether someone wants to do it full time like I do or needs help paying for college or just wants to do something... It's a great opportunity and something to be proud of," Foss said.