Decorated guardsman, humble family man
A Carroll man was named Officer of the Year at his Iowa Air National Guard base in Des Moines
January 16, 2014
B.J. Schreck is a difficult man to describe in one breath. He’s a firefighter. He’s a volunteer. He’s a family man. He’s a computer whiz.
He’s the reigning officer of the year for the Iowa Air National Guard’s 132nd Fighter Wing, based in Des Moines, where he is a first lieutenant.
"Really I'm just humbled by the whole thing," Schreck, 34, a 1997 Kuemper Catholic High School graduate, said of the recent Guard award. "There are a lot of really good officers."
But he's also proud of his 17 years with the Guard. An entire room of his Carroll house - where he lives with wife J.J. Schreck, a local police officer, and 4-year-old daughter Ellee - displays the awards and photos and mementos that remind him of his service.
Schreck joined the Guard as a high school senior at the behest of a good friend who had already joined.
The son of Bill and Shelly Schreck of rural Dedham, B.J. Schreck planned to go to college and knew military service would help pay for it.
So he graduated from Kuemper and completed basic military training and has arrived for duty one weekend each month ever since at the Des Moines base, where for the bulk of his career he helped repair the F-16 fighter jets that residents sometimes saw flying on the southwest side of the metro area.
He graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls with a bachelor's degree in management information systems, and his day job now in Carroll is at American Home Shield, where he is an operations analyst.
He has been activated to serve overseas three times: Kuwait in 2001, Qatar in 2005 and Iraq in 2008, where he oversaw all the maintenance for a specific set of fighter jets.
"When we're overseas in the desert, the hot and sand is really, really hard on them," Schreck said of the jets. "In three months, they get as much flight time as one year in Des Moines."
Some of the jets have nicknames, such as the one that was marked "333" and needed constant fixing. Schreck and his fellow Guardsmen called it "triple cripple."
In April 2010, Schreck earned his commission as an officer, which meant he would oversee people rather than equipment.
His commander, Lt. Col. Trenton Twedt, nominated Schreck for the Officer of the Year award last year. In his nomination, Twedt gushed about Schreck's accomplishments and work ethic: "Uncompromising standards and expectations" and "huge morale booster!"
And Twedt cited Schreck's community involvement, especially his work with the Carroll Fire Department for the past 5½ years. Schreck was nominated by his fellow firefighters as their training officer, which means he plans and schedules the state-mandated training sessions for the department with the approval of Fire Chief Greg Schreck. The two are not directly related.
"He takes that job very seriously," Greg Schreck said. "Some of his military training lends itself to us here. He's deliberate and thorough. He does an exceptional job."
And B.J. Schreck can adapt.
It was announced in December 2012 that the Des Moines Air Guard base would lose all 21 of its F-16 jets. Some pilots chose to leave the base for another to keep flying. But Schreck adjusted.
The changes are sad and exciting, he said.
"It's bittersweet," he said. "The F-16s have been there ever since I was there. But we all realize that the military is changing, that the way we fight is changing. We can lead."
The Des Moines base is now tasked with operating drones and remote-piloted aircraft. The latter simulates flying a real jet, but the pilot sits in a seat in Des Moines rather than in the cockpit overseas. They are linked by satellites.
Schreck is now the officer in charge of the communications flight for the 132nd Operations Group, an information technology role that fits with his college schooling.
"It's kind of cool to think of what we can do from our base in Des Moines halfway around the world," he said.
He's unsure how much longer he will stay with the Guard. In three years he will be eligible for military retirement benefits, but it's more likely that his life in Carroll will dictate when he leaves.
"It's a big sacrifice for the family," Schreck said of his weekend Guard commitments. "I told myself when I joined that it wasn't going to impact my family."
And his family might grow, he said.
"I came back to Carroll for family," Schreck said. "I knew this was the place I wanted to send my kids to school. It's just a great place."
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