Annette Hacker, director,
Office: (515) 294-4777
Staff Sgt. Justin Niichel, ISU senior in pre-business, (319) 415-7544, firstname.lastname@example.org
Specialist Sunjo Chang, ISU sophomore in pre-business, (712) 899-4016, email@example.com
Kathy Jones, Office of the Registrar, (515) 294-0754, firstname.lastname@example.org
Annette Hacker, News Service, (515) 294-3720, email@example.com
Justin Niichel. Downloadable photo by Bob Elbert.
Iowa State students called to duty for Obama inauguration
AMES, Iowa -- At least two Iowa State students will be among the 1,000 Iowa National Guard soldiers and airmen on duty during the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration of Barack Obama.
Staff Sgt. Justin Niichel of Osage, an ISU senior majoring in pre-business; and Spc. Sunjo Chang of Westfield, an ISU sophomore majoring in pre-business, will leave Wednesday morning for approximately 10 days of duty in Washington, D.C. While they're preparing for the 56th presidential inauguration and later assisting with traffic control, crowd management, security and transportation, they'll miss the first week and a half of classes in the spring semester at Iowa State.
ISU Assistant Vice President for Enrollment and Registrar Kathy Jones said she learned the news when Chang and Niichel checked in with the Veterans Administration clerks in her office to let them know their status. Jones said it's possible that other ISU students serving in the Iowa National Guard have been called to duty for this short mission, but they may have notified their instructors directly.
As for Niichel and Chang, they're packed and ready to go, and attending class Monday and Tuesday in the hopes that they won't fall behind at school while they're making history. Niichel, 29, is taking his orders in stride. He served for two years in Iraq (2005 to 2007), and was deployed to Egypt before that. He's been working to earn his degree from Iowa State off and on since 2003, recently switching his major from forestry to pre-business. He's accustomed to balancing his education and military service.
"No matter how good you are at homework, there will still be a lot of reading to catch up on, and that just takes time," Niichel said.
"It's pretty neat to be able to do (the inauguration)," he added. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Out of my company, they only took 30 of us. Some of the new guys are pretty pumped."
Chang was deployed over the summer to help with flood relief in Burlington. Like other Iowa National Guard soldiers, he learned yesterday that he was headed for Washington, D.C. -- his first trip to the nation's capital. Chang predicts the historic assignment will be "a little less labor intensive" than sandbagging, and "a good experience."
"Hopefully everything will go smoothly," Chang said. "I don't know if I'll get to see any sights while I'm on duty, but that's not a big deal. Just being there will be enough."
Chang sent his parents a text message to let them know he'll be participating in the presidential inauguration.
"My mom said to be careful and have fun. My dad said, 'Good for you. We'll probably see you on TV,' just general parent things," Chang said. "I'm definitely very excited. You don't usually get an opportunity like this. It's a unique experience and I'm sure I'll enjoy it."
Staff Sgt. Justin Niichel of Osage and Spc. Sunjo Chang of Westfield, both Iowa State pre-business students, will be among the 1,000 Iowa National Guard soldiers and airmen on duty during the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration of Barack Obama.