BROOKINGS – “Military is definitely a family thing for us.”
Those few words by Maj. Rebecca Trygstad, South Dakota Army National Guard, are backed up by action. She has served in the Guard since February 1997. Growing up on a family farm near Clear Lake, she was 17 and a junior in high school when she enlisted.
Maj. Jayme Trygstad, her husband, has 24 years of combined service: six years active duty in the Army and 18 years in the SDARNG.
Add to their years of service the years of their families. “We have over 138 years of military service in our immediate family,” Rebecca said. “That does not include aunts, uncles, cousins.”
By the numbers, she noted years spent in the SDARNG: her father, later killed in a farming accident, 36 years; two sisters, six years each; and a brother-in-law, 20 years.
Add to that Jayme’s two brothers, who served 20 years and six years respectively in the military.
Finally, the above numbers do not include the extended Trygstad family.
The Trygstad family lives in Volga. At a recent SDSU football game, they were honored as “Military Family of the Game.” Several other members of their immediate family were also there to share the special day.
Private to major
Rebecca got her real taste of the military during the summer between her junior and senior year of high school when she went to eight weeks of Army basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Following graduation from high school she completed eight weeks of advanced individual training, also at Fort Leonard Wood, and was qualified as a truck driver.
She went on to serve in a variety of Guard assignments “all over the place,” until 2002. Then a sergeant, she completed the three-phased, 18-month long South Dakota Officer Candidate program and was commissioned a second lieutenant. That’s also where she met and dated fellow-classmate Jayme, whom she would later marry.
That same year she also graduated from Dakota State University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
Rebecca also attended five months of military training to qualify as a transportation officer. And she again served in a variety of assignments before coming to Brookings in 2008 to the 139th Brigade Support Battalion, where she currently serves full time as the administrative officer.
Meanwhile she earned a master’s degree in business administration online from Grantham University (Kansas), graduating in 2015.
Medic to manuevers
Jayme Trystagstad grew up in Lake Preston, where he graduated from high school in 1990.
“I tried the real world first, and it didn’t go so well,” he explained. “I went to school at Southeast Votech for electrical engineering. I just figured out after being done with that, that active duty was a good thing to do.
“All my uncles, my brother had done it. It just started to make sense.”
He joined the Army in April 1993 and served six years of active duty as a medical laboratory specialist, doing tours of duty at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio; Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center, Aurora, Colorado; and United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Fort Detrick, Maryland.
Before leaving active duty in April 1999, with the rank of specialist, he joined the Army National Guard in Brookings, knowing he would be attending South Dakota State University. But he didn’t bring his medical specialist training with him.
Like his wife, he too was commissioned a second lieutenant following graduation from OCS in 2002.
The following year was a memorable one for the new “butter bar.” He graduated with a bachelor of science degree in environmental management, after marrying Rebecca in February.
The Trygstads have two children: Skylar, 12, and Liberty, 9.
“Liberty got her name because I deployed 10 days after she was born,” Jayme said. “I was in Afghanistan from March 2008 to January 2009.” He was deployed with an Embedded Training Team to Konduz, where he was responsible for mentoring Afghan National Police.
JP and church marriages
Looking back to their lives together before the birth of their children, Rebecca reflected on how the demands of service, especially wartime deployments, affect military families.
“We’ve actually been married twice,” she said, smiling and with a hint of humor. “We were married by the justice of the peace in February 2003, because that’s when all the deployments were happening.
“I had a sister, an uncle, a dad, and a multitude of friends that deployed right around that time frame. There were a lot of units that were alerted then.
“We got married by the justice of the peace because we didn’t know what our future held with all these deployments that were happening.”
After family and friends returned from their deployments, the Trygstads had a church wedding on July 3, 2004, in First Lutheran Church in Volga.
“Getting married in church was very important to us,” Rebecca said. “So we renewed our vows. It was a patriotic wedding, with Fourth of July decorations. My colors were red, white and blue.”
A sense of service
Speaking for herself and Jayme, Rebecca noted that what they have found most rewarding in the Guard is “the opportunity to be able to lead soldiers and see them develop as they move on in their careers.”
“We’ve both been in the Guard long enough to see some of the soldiers in our ranks as young lieutenants advance as officers and young enlisted soldiers advance to sergeant major,” he added.
And many Guardsmen carry that sense of service and leadership into the civilian world. Jayme has been involved in youth programs in the Sioux Valley School District and as a school board member.
Rebecca serves on the Brookings Military Veterans Affairs Committee, Junior Achievement and American Legion.
As soldiers, both Trygstads bring a wealth of experience and leadership to their Guard assignments. Both have served as company commanders. Today both are majors.
Jayme serves as signal officer for the 196th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, headquartered in Sioux Falls. During his Guard career, he has served in artillery, the maneuver enhancement brigade, and joint force headquarters.
Rebecca has served in a variety of assignments, all related to logistics.
Contact John Kubal at [email protected]