COLUMBUS, Ohio —
Six times in the last 10 years, Sgt. Maj. Jeff Zentz has deployed with his Ohio Army National Guard units. Zentz’s most recent deployment ended just a few months ago when the 371st Sustainment Brigade, headquartered in Springfield, Ohio, returned from a nearly yearlong deployment in support of operations in Southwest Asia.
With that many deployments on his service record and a wife and three children, Zentz knows firsthand the challenges soldiers face when they’re away from their families for an extended period.
“Staying connected to my wife and children is one of the hardest parts of being deployed, especially as often as I have been over the last 10 years,” he said. “Being gone for nine to 12 months is not like being gone for a drill weekend or a two- to three-week annual training.”
Zentz credits his wife, April, for giving him the ability to focus on taking care of his military business through the support she’s given him during the six mobilizations and “holding down the fort back home.”
“During every deployment, I handled most of the issues at the home level,” she said. “Even though things may have been difficult, I always made sure I did not complain to Jeff. I knew he had a lot of important responsibilities where he was, and I didn’t want to draw his attention away from those.
“We have been married for 26 years now,” she continued, “and working together with my husband and children throughout all of the deployments has made us a very close family. I wouldn’t change anything.”
Zentz has served with both of his sons during two different deployments. In 2012 he and his son Army Spc. Jordon Zentz were in Afghanistan with the 1st Battalion, 148th Infantry Regiment, and last year he and Army Sgt. Jaaron Zentz deployed with the 371st Sustainment Brigade. Jordon was deployed with his unit at the same time last year and all three were able to get together for a brief visit.
“When deployed with one of my sons, it is nice to have a family member close,” he said. “The negative side is others tend to assume that I insert myself into their business, which I do not. They may be my sons, but they are not my soldiers. There is a very distinct difference.”
Jordon called the experience of being deployed with his dad “interesting,” and Jaaron said it was “nice, as I was able to spend time with him when we had free time.”
The military experience also has helped the Zentz family pay for college tuition, including that of daughter Mikayla, who recently graduated from Michigan State University.
Zentz is on active duty at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and is scheduled to retire Nov. 30, 2019. With the support of his family, he said, he has been able to support the Ohio National Guard’s federal mission to defend the homeland and will be able to retire after a successful career as a citizen-soldier.