Benjamin Garland entered the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2005 with hopes of becoming a fighter pilot.
As a defensive tackle for the school’s football team, he also had dreams of playing in the National Football League.
Signed by the Denver Broncos as a free agent in 2010, Garland took one step closer to his goals on May 30, 2012, when he raised his right hand and took the oath of office; officially entering the Colorado Air National Guard. And as a Guardsman, he can now live both of his childhood dreams – though one has slightly changed.
“My (USAFA) coach said I may have the opportunity to play for the Denver Broncos,” Garland said. “It was a dream of mine to go to the academy and a dream to play for the Denver Broncos. It was also my dream to be a pilot. I always associated the Air Force with planes – and planes with being a pilot – and I wanted to be the pilot in that seat.”
In order to go to flight school, which would require a 12-year commitment, he would’ve had to put his NFL dreams to bed. Faced with the difficult decision, he submitted a request to be released from the Air Force.
Although he’s chosen to pursue a career as a professional football player, his other dream is also becoming reality – though a slightly modified version.
“Once I graduated and really thought about it, my dream wasn’t to fly planes. It was to serve my country,” Garland said. “I got to fulfill that dream completely.”
Prior to the NFL, he served nearly two years as chief of media operations for the 375th Air Mobility Wing at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. Granted a conditional release from his active duty commitment, Garland will now serve as a public affairs officer for the 140th Wing, COANG, while attending Broncos training camp.
He’s not officially on the Broncos starting roster yet – he’ll have to compete for a spot this off season – but his dedication and commitment to both careers has certainly been noticed.
“He’s just an exceptionally sharp and dedicated young man, and a wonderful human being,” said USAFA football Coach Troy Calhoun. “He’ll do dynamite stuff whenever he’s called to service. He’s a guy who wanted to serve our country. He’s done that exceptionally well on active duty and he’ll continue to do a terrific job with the Guard.”
“To be able to inherit a guy like that on to the football team is a great honor for me,” said Broncos head coach John Fox.
During his time on active duty, Garland was placed of the NFL’s military reserve list, as league rules require active duty service members to complete their military commitments before being eligible to play football professionally. As a Guardsman now, Garland hopes to make the Bronco’s starting roster for the 2012 NFL season.
“I remember being a little kid wearing the Broncos uniform watching Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII and just being a Colorado kid,” said Garland, a Grand Junction, Colo., native. “Now … I’m just working as hard as I can to stay here – not only that, but to represent the Colorado Air National Guard well.”
“As far as the skill set and those things he’s proven to the Air Force that he’s capable of, and so far he’s proven to me that he’s capable of, I hope he earns one of the roster spots,” said Fox. “He’ll get the opportunity to serve the Denver Broncos now, and still serve his country in the National Guard. It probably doesn’t get much better than that.”
Garland’s oath of office was administered by Brig. Gen. Trulan Eyre, 140th Wing commander. “I look forward to great things from Ben and I have no doubt I’ll see them,” said Eyre.