JANUARY 11, 2023 – When Devon Feenstra graduated from Le Mars Community High School a few years ago, he knew he wanted to go to college. He also knew college could bridle him with some serious debt.
Feenstra found a way to pay for college that would keep him debt free, while also adding some unique real-world experiences and responsibilities.
While other students find financial aid through academic or sports scholarships, Feenstra is getting a full ride through his membership with the Iowa National Guard.
According to the Iowa College Aid website, eligible members receive up to 100% tuition assistance at Iowa public universities, colleges, and trade schools. Tuition assistance to private institutions can be awarded up to what would be paid at a public institution.
“The National Guard has helped me stay out of student loan debt by paying for my tuition,” said Feenstra.
Feenstra, a first-year student at Iowa State University, is studying for his Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing.
While studying at ISU, Feenstra is also serving as a traditional guard member with the 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City, Iowa.
When he is not a student, Airman 1st Class Feenstra can be found teaching emergency management classes on training weekends.
The classes that Feenstra teaches are serious subjects, including surviving in chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear environments.
As a benefit for his service in the National Guard, Feenstra said he also qualifies for the Montgomery Reserve G.I. Bill which provides an additional stipend that pays for his additional expenses. Guard members like Feenstra are also paid for the training they perform each month.
As a member of the National Guard, Feenstra is required to attend monthly training and additional periods of training each year.
Feenstra said he wanted to join the military since he was a child, especially after watching his older brother join the Air National Guard in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The Le Mars, Iowa, native is in his third year of service with the 185th ARW. During his short tenure, Feenstra was already part of a six-month long deployment to Kuwait.
Feenstra initially attended basic military training in San Antonio, Texas, and attended technical training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. Apart from his initial training and deployment, Feenstra said he is looking forward to annual training this year where he could train in Hawaii or Florida.
Feenstra said he recommends joining the National Guard to anyone who is interested and said he is already planning to complete a full twenty years with the military.
After twenty years of service with the National Guard, members are eligible a retirement pension when they turn age sixty.
“It has had its hard times, but overall, I do not regret my decision to join,” said Feenstra. “I want to continue with the many experiences it gives me.”
Guard members also qualify for Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance, which provides up to $400,000 coverage. Members also qualify to purchase significantly reduced cost TRICARE medical insurance.
After he completes his undergraduate degree, Feenstra will also be eligible to apply for a commission as military officer.
Story by Senior Airman Tylon Chapman
185th Air Refueling Wing, Iowa Air National Guard