UM president joins Montana Army National Guard

UM President Seth Bodnar is sworn into the Montana Army National Guard by Maj. Gen. Matthew Quinn on Jan. 8 at Fort Harrison. (Courtesy photo)

University of Montana President Seth Bodnar now holds the title of major in the Montana Army National Guard, adding to his long military background that includes West Point and the U.S. Army’s First Special Forces Group.

In a statement, the president expressed admiration for the state’s long history of service in the nation’s military, and was proud to be a part of it.

“Since I left active duty in the U.S. Army, I’ve been a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, and I’m honored today to continue my service by transferring into the Montana National Guard and joining the long line of Montanans who have so bravely and selflessly served both our great state and this nation,” Bodnar said.

Montana has the second highest percentage of veterans per capita in the nation, with about 3,600 members actively involved in the Montana National Guard.

Bodnar is a current member in the United States Army Reserves and was sworn into the Montana Army National Guard by Maj. Gen. Matthew Quinn at Fort Harrison near Helena on Tuesday.

Shawn Grove, director of UM’s Veterans Education and Transition Office, said that he interested in what responsibilities the president will take on. Being a member of the National Guard himself, Grove said that Bodnar will most likely stay in Montana.

Michael Touchette, a public affairs specialist with the Montana National Guard, said that Bodnar will serve an administrative position and will provide strategy and ensure that soldiers have what they need to do a job on the ground.

“He brings a great skill set that we can utilize,” Touchette said. “It epitomizes what we look for in our national guard members. He’s got some education, he can think, he can lead, he’s the real deal. His active duty experience just brings so much knowledge to us from real world activities and operations that we can learn from.”

As of now, Bodnar’s responsibilities will include drills the first weekend of the month and a few weeks worth of training every year. He’ll be able to use his skills as a leader for both positions, Grove said.

“I think it will be a natural transition for him,” he said.

Grove said he is interested in finding out if previous UM presidents have held any military rank, but agrees that students who are veterans appreciate seeing a superior like their university president serve.

“I think there will be two effects here. It could push the dial on recruitment because you have a major figure in the national guard who is also a president of a university,” he said. “It might encourage people in Montana to join the National Guard as well. He is a leader. He leads by example and I think he might have some followers.”

According to Grove, about 400 students are using benefits like the GI Bill as veterans to fund their schooling, while 600 total veterans are attending the university. About one-fifth of the students on campus using the GI Bill are associated with the Montana National Guard.