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NEWS | Oct. 2, 2023

New York Guard Soldier Serves Soldiers, Students

By Spc. Precious Scott, 343rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

MIHAIL KOGALNICEANU AIR BASE AIR BASE, Romania – A Soldier stands in formation during Army National Guard drill weekend, prepared to use his military skills and training.

At 8 a.m., a school counselor at an elementary school gathers with teachers ready to assist students in the classroom. By 8:40 a.m., he makes the rounds to check in with his students.

This routine is a snapshot of what Maj. Sean Q. Spooner, a logistics officer with the New York National Guard’s 42nd Infantry Division and a Williamson Elementary School counselor, does as he transitions from drill weekends back to his weekday career.

Although Spooner’s civilian educational background is a Master of Science in Education with a concentration in school counseling and his military background as a logistic officer may seem different, the balance between both equips him for success.

“I’ve never met someone that does both before,” said Spooner. “I’m sure there are, but being a school counselor and an Army officer leads to a unique skill set.”

Spooner said active listening and communication skills are important skills to develop students and Soldiers. As a school counselor, Spooner’s mission is to counsel kindergarten to fourth-grade students and teach social-emotional learning to meet their needs based on their developmental level.

“I teach feeling identification and basic social skills to kindergarteners,” he said, explaining his different approaches with third- and fourth-grade students. “We go over bigger coping skills and explore deeper topics such as conflict resolution and peer mediation.”

“It speaks to the military side as well,” he said. “It’s one of the things that, as an officer or a noncommissioned officer, you must be able to communicate with your company, platoon or audience.”

Capt. Philip J. McGrath, the personnel officer assigned to the 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade in Latham, New York, has followed Spooner throughout his military career and believes his skills translate to how he leads his Soldiers.

“Spooner is a person that may see someone in a crisis and sees that as not a challenge but an opportunity to help,” said McGrath. “I’ve seen him engage with a Soldier like he would with students in the classroom.”

National Guard Soldiers often have opportunities to serve alongside their active-duty counterparts. When it was time for the Army’s 10th Mountain Division to rotate to Europe, Spooner volunteered.

“The 10th Mountain Division needed logistic officers to work in the G-4 shop,” Spooner said, referring to his interest in the mission.

The G-4 shop refers to the logistics office at the general staff level for an Army division or higher. Soon after, he was packed up and ready to deploy.

In addition to performing his Army duties while deployed at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, Spooner volunteers at a Romanian school with Capt. Micheal J. Kearney, the 10th Mountain Division headquarters and headquarters battalion chaplain.

During the summer, he worked with students at Targusor School on social-emotional learning. While some students did not speak English, that did not stop Spooner from providing support.

“It’s cool to find engaging ways to communicate without talking,” said Spooner. 

At the start of the school year in early September, Spooner met with Romanian teachers to discuss skills that could bring social-emotional learning concepts into their classrooms. 

With the school year also starting back in New York, the teachers and the staff miss his presence.

“The kids, parents, and teachers alike adore him,” said Peggy Donahue, a Williamson Elementary teacher. 

“He isn’t a person who just works and then leaves,” said McGrath. “The future is in good hands with people like him who genuinely care for and advocate for others.”

McGrath explained that the National Guard motto, ‘Always Ready, Always There,’ fits Spooner’s character.

“He is always ready to lend a hand, not because he is being directed to by an order but because he cares,” said McGrath. “He is that ‘see something, say something’ person in a helping aspect for both Soldiers and students.”

Even though serving in the military and being a school counselor is not the same occupation on paper, it can still impact the communities and those involved.

“Both professions are helping and serving the community,” said Spooner. “Whether serving the greater country, a school district, or a smaller community population, it is a call to service.”



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