AKRON, Ohio — Specialist Taylor Golston, of Cleveland, and Private First Class Kasie Kalal, from Richfield, enjoy the challenge of learning unique skills as members of the Ohio Army National Guard.
Both women are 22 years old and signed up for military duty three years ago.
"I've learned how to throw a grenade. I've learned how to obviously shoot a weapon, multiple weapons, and I've learned tactical movement," said Golston.
Kalal thrives in her work with gas masks and decontamination equipment.
"I work in the supply room in the CBRN cage, which is chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist," Kalal said.
Outside of their military specialties, the women can call themselves experts on another piece of equipment-- a pallet jack rider-- inside the Akron Canton Regional Foodbank.
Golston and Kalal, full-time warehouse specialists, operate the jack rider to pick food orders from shelves and move loaded boxes to docks. Orders eventually are delivered to hundreds of food pantries and other programs in an eight-county area.
In the spring of 2020, Gov. Mike DeWine ordered the Ohio National Guard to assist food banks with distributions throughout the state as families dealt with lost jobs and decreased wages during the pandemic.
Golston and Kalal were part of a six-month activation at ACRF and the work inspired them to apply for jobs once the duty ended.
Golston, who is also a finance student at the University of Akron, said she even came back to volunteer because she missed the workers and helping people in need.
"I came up here to volunteer and I'm like, 'Wow, I miss this this. I have to come back,'" she said.
Kalal said the agency encouraged her to apply and she was thrilled to get the job. During the activation, she was struck by the high number of people struggling with food access, including many who were first time visitors to the food bank.
"It really just opened my eyes to what kind of issues were really out there," Kalal said.
The National Guard members are among only a handful of women who work in the warehouse.
"I can operate a tow motor. Most people can't do that. Most men can't do that either, so I'm very happy that I can do that," Golston said.
"It's kind of cool to be able to do something that you wouldn't think of a female working in a warehouse," Kalal added.
The women have several years left on their commitment to the National Guard. They are prepared for the possibility of being deployed if there is trouble somewhere in the country or the world.
"I knew going into it that it was always a possibility, so I've kind of mentally prepared myself for that-- but other than that-- just day-to-day and if it happens, it happens," Kalal said.
Kalal and Golston stressed they are dedicated to serving our country, but for now, their mission is doing their part to help the hungry.
"It makes you feel so good about yourself honestly because you're doing something like this for the people," Kalal said.