Student, Guard member featured in national military magazine

By University Communications
October 18, 2015
Amanda Lafky, a senior, studies with friends at UW-Stout. Photo courtesy of the Department of Defense

Photo: Amanda Lafky. Photo courtesy of the Department of Defense

Amanda Lafky wouldn’t seem to be the picture of someone serving in the U.S. military.

The senior at University of Wisconsin-Stout is majoring in professional communication and emerging media, a major that likely will lead her to an office job someday. With a concentration in applied journalism, she is aiming for a career in public relations.

At UW-Stout she also is a vice president of marketing in her sorority, is a sports photographer for Blue Devils athletics and gives campus tours for prospective students for the Admissions Office.
She is the picture of a typical college student.

Once a month and for a two-week training period each year, however, she puts on her military uniform and becomes Senior Airman Amanda Lafky. As part of her six-year commitment to the Wisconsin Air National Guard, she works in personnel as a member of the 115th Fighter Wing based at Truax Field in Madison.

The military, as much as higher education, has become her life. She passed basic training and technical training in Texas when she still was 17. Since then, she has gone through military leadership training school in Tennessee, trained in Europe and received two performance-based Air Force Achievement medals.

Lafky is shining example of how someone can go to college, be active on their campus and serve their country at the same time.

The U.S. Department of Defense thinks so.

Recently, Lafky was one of eight U.S. college students featured in the department’s annual Futures magazine, which is distributed nationally. The article titled “Studies, Sorority and Service: A Perfect College Combo” shows Lafky involved on campus and describes how she blends college life with military service.

“It takes my friends by surprise to learn that I’m in the military and that I have been for the past few years,” she told the magazine. “I think people expect everyone in the military to act and appear a certain way, but I’m just this girly girl who wears heels to class and does her makeup everyday.”

Lafky said she was chosen for the article after filling out an information form for the magazine, which liked her energetic commitment to school and service. To see the magazine, go here >>.

Making a military commitment

She was inspired to join the National Guard when a friend joined. “I thought, ‘If she can do it, I can do it,’” Lafky said, adding that she also was inspired by a brother who serves full time in the military.

All wasn’t rosy at first. Lafky finished her studies at Bangor High School in Wisconsin a semester early her senior year so she could go to basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, in spring 2011.

During the first week of basic training, she almost quit. “I was only 17. I was pretty young and it was my first time away from family and friends. I wrote a letter home saying, ‘I don’t know why I did this.’ I hated it. My dad wrote a letter back saying, ‘We believe in you,’” she recalls.

Lafky, an athlete in high school, eventually graduated from basic training without any trouble and returned home for her high school graduation. She left again that summer for technical training at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas.

National Guard service has helped her pay for college, but Lafky can’t put a price on the experience she’s gained.

“Serving in the military has changed me and made me a more confident person. The military does a good job of mentally toughening you,” she said. “I like the challenge and being involved in something bigger than myself.
“I absolutely love it. It’s been the best experience of my life. I work with some really awesome people in the military,” she said.

She hopes, soon, to be promoted to staff sergeant. “You can be in the military and have a normal life,” she said.

A positive college experience

Lafky will graduate from UW-Stout in May. Her National Guard commitment ends in October 2016. She hopes to work in public affairs in the military for two years then find a civilian job in public relations, preferably with a travel company or airline.

She’s glad she chose UW-Stout, where she said she made friends quickly, became engaged in her major and fell in love with the school. “There always seems to be something happening on campus,” she said.
“My professors provide a lot of opportunities, and they’re super smart,” she said.

Along with being a campus tour guide, she shoots photos for athletics and belongs to the Veterans Club. She is vice president of marketing for the Alpha Phi sorority. She also is working this fall in public relations at Mayo Clinic Health System — Red Cedar through the university’s Cooperative Education Program.