Dahlheimer competes for 'Soldier of the Year' honor
Spencer Dahlheimer of Alexandria puts his heart and soul into being a solider.
He improves himself every day by sharpening his skills at the firing range, competing in long-range shooting events and taking on demanding physical activities like rock climbing, running and swimming with weights.
His dedication was recognized earlier this month. He was one of just eight soldiers out of 16,000 who were selected to compete in the "I Core Soldier/NCO of the Year" competition. He was chosen to represent his unit based on his rifle expertise, his physical fitness and his score on an intelligence test.
Stationed in Fort Lewis, a training and mobilization center in Washington, Dahlheimer is a primary shooter in a sniper section of the Army. His mission: Provide long-range precision fire on targets that conventional military units can't find.
Although he hasn't been deployed yet, Specialist Dahlheimer, 22, has helped provide security detail for VIP visits to South Korea. This fall, he'll be deployed to Afghanistan.
The Soldier of the Year competition started with a physical fitness test, which included pushups and a two-mile run. Soldiers then had to use their navigation skills to find their way out of a densely wooded area during the day and night. Their rifle skills were put to the test and they had to complete a written test as well.
They also competed in advanced warrior drills involving weapon systems, searching for vehicles and personnel, and performing their duties in a combat environment.
Lastly, the finalists were drilled by a panel of sergeant majors, who peppered them with a variety of questions on Army protocol.
Although Dahlheimer didn't win the competition, being selected to compete was an honor in itself. It provided him with more time to do what he deeply enjoys doing - being a soldier.
"I love my job," he said in a phone interview with the Echo Press from Fort Lewis. "It's the only job I know of that pays me to do what I love to do."
The son of Jerry and Lynne Dahlheimer of Alexandria, Spencer has long dreamed of serving his country. After graduating from New Testament Christian School in Alexandria in 2008, he knew exactly what he wanted to do next.
"I've always wanted to join the Army, ever since I was 12 years old or so," he said. "I plan to spend 20 to 25 years in the military."
Dahlheimer said his family has been behind him from the get-go. "They're extremely proud and very supportive," he said.
In the three years since he enlisted in the Army, Dahlheimer, an avid hunter and fisherman, has spent only about two weeks home. His last trip back, a two-day visit, was bittersweet: It was to attend the funeral of his grandfather, Harvey Dahlheimer, who passed away on April 28, 2012.
When asked if there were any misconceptions people have about the military or what it's doing, Dahlheimer said that the Army is "just trying to help people wherever we go."
He added that his time with the Army has been rewarding. He has especially enjoyed getting to know his fellow soldiers. "It's been a great experience," he said. "I've formed some good friendships."
What about the possibility of being placed in dangerous situations? "With my job style," he said, "whoever is against us won't even know we are there."
Al Edenloff Al Edenloff was born in Alexandria and later moved to Parkers Prairie where he graduated in 1979. While in high school, he wrote sports stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent. Al graduated from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communication and started at the Echo Press as a summer intern in 1983. He worked as a reporter until 1990 when he was named editor. He's earned several writing and reporting awards from the Minnesota Newspaper Association (MNA) and the National Newspaper Association. He was presented with the Minnesota News Council's Journalism Accountability Award and is a three-time winner of the MNA's Herman Roe Editorial Writing Award. In his spare time, Al enjoys golfing, fishing, biking, watching sports, cooking and reading mystery novels.