The right place. The right time. The right stuff.

Very early on, Aitkin’s Carter Endrizzi knew what he wanted to do with his life.

“I knew I wanted to go into the armed forces from a young age, 10 or 11,” explained Endrizzi, a three-sport athlete at Aitkin High School who was also highly involved with the FFA.

Endrizzi admits he lived his high school years “to the fullest,” but that involved more than sports and activities. He has been a part of the Minnesota National Guard since he turned 17 – before he even graduated from high school.

He is an E4 – or specialist – with the 434th Support Maintenance Company out of Camp Ripley, serving as a wheeled vehicle mechanic.

“Basically, if it’s got wheels, I fix it,” Endrizzi said. “I grew up working with my hands, and I grew up wrenching on things.

“I’ve always wanted to be a diesel mechanic,” he added. “And I’m still serving my country, doing what I love.”

Endrizzi enlisted nine days after his 17th birthday, traveling down to Minneapolis to raise his right hand. He then undertook basic combat training between his junior and senior year, and went to job training with the National Guard after graduating from high school in the spring of 2019.

This year, he celebrated his 20th birthday while on his two-week training with his unit. He said in October that he knew it would be a good birthday, because he’d be training and with his unit.

After deciding to serve his country, Endrizzi decided on the National Guard because he thought it would be the best fit for him. As for serving his country, however, that reasoning has always remained the same.

“The whole reason I enlisted was because I love my country, and I don’t like people trying to tear it down,” he said.

He explained he takes a lot of pride in his uniform.

“I take a lot of time in the morning to make sure my uniform looks good,” he said.

Endrizzi said he’s taking pride in wearing that uniform, even though he’s only been wearing it so far in the state of Minnesota. As a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, he’s thrilled to be recognized by children for service, and being seen as a positive force in the community.

But while waiting for a potential assignment overseas, Endrizzi is working at Camp Ripley, processing the paperwork for newly enlisted soldiers.

He’s also drilling with his unit on a regular basis, getting a chance to work with the vehicles he’s always wanted to. While the paperwork side of things isn’t thrilling, he’s excited about drilling.

“On the drill aspect of it, that’s awesome,” Endrizzi said. “That’s when you feel like you’re doing something that actually makes things happen. That part’s pretty cool.”

During his training and now serving in the National Guard, Endrizzi said he’s also getting exposed to a much larger world.

“When I was at training, it was so cool because, obviously in Aitkin, you don’t have very much diversity,” he explained. “It was super cool learning about other people and their backgrounds.”

For example, Endrizzi said he went to basic training with a young man who grew up in Europe. The two grew to be close friends.

“I learned about his family’s past, and what they went through, all sorts of wars,” he explained. “It’s just crazy awesome, having all the different people and their cultures.”

So far, Endrizzi is on the third year of a six-year contract. While activated this past summer due to the protests in the Twin Cities, Endrizzi said his work kept him busy on the vehicles going down there and coming back.

He is hopeful he will eventually see action away from desk duty, and then decide whether he makes a career out of the National Guard.

“As of right now, I’m looking to make a career out of it. What I’ve always been told, as long as you’re in the right place at the right time in the right uniform and the right attitude, it’ll be smooth sailing, and there won’t be any problems.

“I just kind of live by that.”

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