Story by Crystal Farris
Idaho Army National Guard
Idaho Army National Guard Soldiers Capt. Robert Taylor and 1st Sgt. Derek Clemence share a similar past; they grew up in the small town of Mountain Home, Idaho, and both shipped off to basic training shortly after graduating from Mountain Home High School in 2002.
Approximately 18 years later, both Guardsmen were reunited in their childhood town to serve as commander and first sergeant of A Company, 116th Brigade Engineer Battalion, headquartered in Mountain Home.
“It’s great to be part of a team so deeply rooted in the same town,” said Taylor. “That type of thing only happens in the National Guard and is what the Guard is all about; community, being tied to where you serve and serving with your neighbors.”
In October, Taylor took command of the company, which provides engineer support to the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team. Clemence became the company’s first sergeant one month later.
“I was excited to find out that Capt. Taylor is the commander of A Company,” said Clemence. “The unit being in our old hometown makes me feel closer to the community and gives me the perspective that we are now assets to the community from which we came.”
While Taylor enlisted into the Idaho Army National Guard as a paralegal specialist the day before he began his senior year of high school, Clemence enlisted into the organization’s military police platoon two-years later.
Both Soldiers came face-to-face for the first time since high school while on a deployment to Iraq in 2004 and did not see each other again for 10 more years.
“I had no idea Clemence was still in the Guard until about three years ago when my old unit was doing night training,” said Taylor. “He was giving the mission safety brief. I remember thinking how great it was that a guy I went to high school with had become a sergeant first class and was giving me the brief for a mission I was about to go on. Now he is my first sergeant.”
Clemence served as a military police sergeant for 13 years before he transitioned as an engineer to the 116th Brigade Engineer Battalion in 2016. Coming from a long line of veterans, Clemence knew serving was something he wanted to do since childhood, he said.
“I remember cleaning my old house one day and finding a journal from my fifth-grade English class,” said Clemence. “My teacher had me write about different daily topics. One topic was on what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote that I wanted to join the military as my uncle did.”
Taylor, like Clemence, knew he wanted to follow in his family’s footsteps by joining the military. His mother served in the active Air Force for 20 years and retired while stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base. Taylor joined the Guard rather than active duty as a means to pursue his military career while it paid for school.
“I joined the guard because I saw it as a way to attend law school and still pursue my military career,” said Taylor. “I was concerned that if I went on active duty right out of high school, I wouldn’t have the desire to go back to school later.”
After returning from deployment, Taylor commissioned as an engineer officer and earned an undergraduate in public relations from the University of Idaho. In 2013, he graduated law school and started a family law practice in Mountain Home.
Both Guardsmen will deploy together again in 2020 when the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team mobilizes to Europe for Defender 2020 in support of the largest deployment of U.S. based forces to Europe for an exercise in the last 25 years.