In 1999 Reynaldo Santos of Great Falls, Mont., needed an age waiver to join the Army National Guard at age 36. "It was tough joining at that age, but I had a goal. I wanted to be judge and everyone told me, 'You need to be a Soldier to be a judge.'" And it turned out he needed some actual experience as a Soldier. Santos ran for judge that same year and was defeated.
"It wasn't bad though," he said. "I was fourth among 16 candidates, so I knew I could get better." He had the right academic credentials: an associate degree in criminal justice, two bachelor's degrees: one in paralegal studies and one pre-law, and a master's degree in criminal justice administration. Over the following decade, he would get more than enough military experience. Santos trained as a military policeman and began a series of active duty deployments that continue right through today.
"My first deployment was what they called an extended annual training," said Santos. "We went to Kuwait for six months in 2001 returning on Sept. 1. We got activated again on Sept. 12 for months." Returning from his post 9/11 duties, Santos trained as an aircraft fueler. In 2002 he was put on active duty as a fueler and went back to Kuwait as a fueler in the build up and opening months of the Iraq War.
"We were there before it started," he said. He was home for a year then deployed to Iraq again in 2004 for another year, returning in 2005. At that point he parlayed his military experience into a job as crisis manager of the University of Great Falls. Santos is certainly building up his resume for his next run at becoming a Justice of the Peace.
A father of five and grandfather of eight, he is currently on his third deployment to Iraq, this time as a Staff Sergeant with Echo Company, 2/104 General Support Aviation Battalion, working again as a fueler. He plans on returning to his job with the university next year after his current deployment but will be keeping his eye on the opportunity to run for Justice of the Peace when he returns home.