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Flowery Branch grad got started early on Army career

POSTED: June 5, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Flowery Branch High's Chaston Stewart completed his high school requirements early and left in January to start military intelligence training for the U.S. Army. Stewart returned to take part in graduation ceremonies Saturday at Free Chapel Worship Center.

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While many recent high school graduates will venture off to college this fall with only a vague idea of their career plans, Chaston Stewart has his plan to become a military intelligence analyst all ironed out.

Stewart finished at Flowery Branch High School in December last year and set off for U.S. Army basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri in mid-January. The 18-year-old country music fan completed basic training in April and returned this past weekend to pick up his high school diploma at Flowery Branch High’s graduation ceremony Saturday.

"I’ve always wanted to be in the military since I was 5," Stewart said. "I feel an obligation to defend my country and the freedoms we take for granted."

Stewart said he joined the Army with his sights set on becoming a military police officer, but he performed well on a military aptitude test that earned him a job offer as an intelligence analyst.

"I never even heard of the job until then," he said. "(The Army) offered it to me and told me about it, and I didn’t hesitate to accept it. It opens up a lot of jobs in the private sector when you get out of the Army, like with the CIA, FBI, the Pentagon or law enforcement."

Stewart joined the Army Reserve last November and will go back to Fort Huachuca in Arizona to finish the advanced individual training he began in April, just one day after graduating from basic training.

In August, Stewart will continue working on an associate degree in intelligence operations at North Georgia College & State University. The degree will help him become a military intelligence analyst, who assists commanders in strategic warfare tactics based on the movement of enemy forces.

Stewart said he had to undergo intense examination to receive the U.S. Army top-secret clearance required.

"It was a lot of paperwork, and the FBI interviewed my family, my high school teachers and friends — anybody who ever knew me on a personal level — people at church, everybody," he said. "Once my family told me the FBI came by, that’s when I realized I wasn’t playing. I was doing something serious."

Stewart said he plans to spend four years in the ROTC program at North Georgia College & State University, where he will earn an associate degree in intelligence operations, as well as a degree in history and leadership.

The young private said he is glad to be graduating from high school in the same weekend as Memorial Day, which honors fallen soldiers of past American wars.

"That’s part of the reason I joined — to honor all those who’ve fallen," he said. "Someone giving their life for this country is the greatest honor you could ever do."

Stewart said he looks forward to being an officer and helping to keep American soldiers alive on the front lines of war.

"It’s a great responsibility and honor that I’ll have," he said. "I’ll have the responsibility of keeping other soldiers safe. Their lives will be in my hands."


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