Effingham native Mikel Storm comes from a family of veterans and active duty military members.
The 31-year-old said his family has been the inspiration behind his 13-year career in the U.S. Army Reserve.
“My older brother Zack, who is serving in the Army Reserve as a major (and) my grandfather, Darwin Storm, who served in the Korean War ... both played a big part in inspiring me to join the military,” Mikel Storm said.
Mikel Storm is part of the 206th Regional Support Group unit out of Springfield. The unit was deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan, in the summer where Mikel Storm is serving as a First Sergeant.
Mikel Storm said joining the Army Reserve right out of high school gave him direction for a career path but admits that at times, it can be difficult to manage being in the Reserve and having a civilian career.
According to the U.S. Army website, the Army Reserve allows soldiers to pursue a civilian career or attend college full time while still serving. The Army Reserve offers training close to home and allows its members to live where they want.
Along with those assets, Mikel Storm said joining the Army Reserve has provided him an opportunity to gain leadership experience, form friendships with his fellow Army Reserve members and utilize skills learned in the Army in his civilian career.
While this is not Mikel Storm’s first overseas deployment, he said deployment still presents some challenges and struggles.
“Being away from my family and missing out on life events is probably the most challenging part as I look back over the years,” Mikel Storm said. “Also, being in the Army Reserve, it can make it difficult to manage the expectations of the Army along with managing your civilian career.”
In his civilian life, Mikel Storm is employed by the University of Illinois and is married to his wife, Brooke. The two do not have children, but Mikel Storm said he and his wife have a rescue dog named Sassy.
Serving his country is an honor for him, Mikel Storm said, and being stationed overseas has allowed him to have many unique experiences. Throughout is military career, Mikel Storm said he’s met and worked with a variety of people from different countries.
He said being stationed in the Middle East for several months at a time has immersed him in a whole new culture.
Being across the world also brings sights that most people in the United States will never see.
“...my last deployment when I was stationed in Kuwait, seeing a camel strapped down in the back of a pickup truck on the highway was something you just don’t see everyday in the U.S.,” Mikel Storm said. “I would say the main thing people notice is the outlet plug is different when they try to plug in their phone.”
Mikel Storm said what took the most adjustment was the time difference between Afghanistan and the United States. Afghanistan is 10.5 hours ahead of Illinois, so he said getting use to his schedule across the world was difficult early in his career.
With the approaching Veterans Day holiday, Mikel Storm said this time of year is one in which he honors those who served before him and along side him. He said for many veterans, the day of recognition can foster positive or negative memories, depending on the soldier’s experience.
While he is not yet a veteran himself, Mikel Storm said he looks forward to his future in the military and beyond.
“My goal is to continue to learn and develop in the military and attain the rank of Command Sergeant Major before I get out,” Mikel Storm said. “For my civilian life, I hope to continue progressing in my career working at the University of Illinois and also spending more time with my family once I am home. My wife and I plan to travel more to other countries (and) getting out to see the world without being told by the Army where to go.”
Mikel Storm added that it is thanks to support from his family, wife and the University of Illinois that he has continued to thrive in both his military and civilian careers.