Alec Zwanziger is the new face of the National Guard in northeast Iowa. The New Hampton native recently returned to his home territory last October and serves as the recruiter in the Decorah office.
“I knew what I was getting into when moving up here,” Zwanziger chuckled. “I graduated from (New Hampton) high school in 2012 and have been a part of the National Guard since 2017. The Guard offered me a recruiting position last summer, and I had a choice of either Iowa Falls (northeast of Des Moines) or Decorah. I wanted to come home to northeast Iowa.”
After his high school graduation Zwanziger attended Coe College in Cedar Rapids, where he studied psychology and played baseball. College degree in hand, he had a choice of either going on to graduate school and accumulating more student loan debt, or looking elsewhere.
Zwanziger chose to explore other opportunities.
“I needed to reduce that student loan debt number and had a random conversation with a friend of mine from high school,” he recalled. “He joined the National Guard after college, and we talked about what the Guard had done for him. That’s what initially got me into it.”
After a positive experience with a recruiter, Zwanziger joined the Guard on a part-time basis, just as COVID-19 took hold in the U.S.
“However, things happened, and I found myself getting sought after for a position like this, and I went with it,” Zwanziger said. “And, here I am as a full-time member of the National Guard.”
His position as a recruiter has been unique, with the pandemic forcing him to adapt the way he does business.
“The biggest challenge has been getting in front of young people consistently to talk about the National Guard,” he said. “I’ve been doing a lot of work on social media, as well as making a ton of Zoom and phone calls. Things are picking up and as we start getting more vaccinations out, I’m hoping we start to get back to near normal.”
Zwanziger wouldn’t have pursued a position as a recruiter unless he was convinced the Guard presented some great opportunities. He feels the guard can be a good fit for many people, regardless of their personal situation or career goals.
And for someone who hasn’t selected a career path, the benefits are especially good.
“The biggest thing we offer for young people is 100% of their college tuition for all state schools here in Iowa,” Zwanziger said. “We also offer a benefit for private school students. The only difference is we can’t pay 100% of the tuition because private schools are more expensive.
“I finished school with $70,000 debt,” he recalled. “One thing I took advantage of was the Guard paying up to $50,000 in student loan debt for people in my position who had already gone to school.”
For more information on the National Guard opportunities, visit the recruiting center at 911 South Mill Street, Decorah. The telephone number is (641) 849-0200.
“The biggest thing to remember is we are no longer at the old Army Reserve building,” he said. “It’s no longer functioning because the Army Reserves are no longer here.”
Zwanziger lives in the area with his girlfriend, Mallory, who is the Assistant Director at Sunflower Child Care and Preschool, and 11-month-old son, Crue.