POCATELLO – On Wednesday evening, Gate City Grays co-owner Terry Frederickson organized a “team-building” activity of laser tag at Raymond Park in Pocatello, a 7.8-acre grassy landscape with just enough trees, picnic tables and jungle gyms to add a little strategy to the game.
But added strategy meant an added advantage for the red team because of Kolton Jordan.
“We’re running around the park like, ‘pew, pew, pew,’” Frederickson said, extending his arm and turning his right hand into a quasi-gun. “He’s like down on the ground (army crawling). He went and found this sniper spot – I’m pretty sure he tagged in like the first three minutes.
“It kind of takes the team-building aspect out of it when you’ve got a ringer … I was like, ‘Dude, this is not fair, you have training in this.’”
Jordan’s Annie Oakley-esque display was the spark plug that ignited him to open up about his training, answering all the questions about his once-a-month commitment that has taken him into places that can’t be fully appreciated through simple words.
Jordan, now in his first year with the Grays, is also a 13B cannon crewmember in the Army National Guard A 1-48, 2nd platoon based out of Preston, a military commitment that requires he spends one weekend a month down at the base for training — which is basically just in preparation for the unknown.
It’s possible that Jordan could run through his entire six-year National Guard contract without being called to a combat deployment. Perhaps that would be a good thing.
It’s not like Jordan joined because he craved action, he signed up because there was a two-pronged push he hoped to gain. There are the financial incentives, the free education and the post-military benefits that can be a monetary trampoline into adulthood. Then comes the kick-in-the-ass type of push, the rigorous grind of basic training and military training most civilians have only ever encountered through war movies – the 10 weeks of hell and pressure that either turns a youngster into a diamond or fizzles them into powder.
Jordan is in the former group.
“It’s developed me as a person and made me learn to become a leader, understand that I do have responsibilities and that I have to provide and I have to do my job,” Jordan said. “If the guy next to me can’t do it, I have to step up and do it. We learn that process over and over again.”
He’s had two opportunities to put that into action.
As part of stateside deployment, Jordan was sent to Washington D.C. last summer in the wake of protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd (“People were protesting for all the right reasons, of course, but some people take it too far and they want us to mitigate that,” Jordan said) and again this January for the inauguration of President Joe Biden, when Jordan slept on the floor of the U.S. Capital’s National Statuary Hall, interacted with senators and walked around what he called a “militarized D.C.” full of police, National Guardsmen, military personnel and seemingly enough barbed wire to wrap the Earth.
“We got up at 3 a.m., got on busses, had all of our gear. They issued us a M4 with two 30-round magazines. We had our helmets and stuff, body armor, face masks,” Jordan said. “And so for me, (it’s crazy) to be able to go and have an experience like that within the first three years."
To hear second-hand accounts of National Guard training is like hearing about some sort of odd fantasy camp of adventure-crazed people who don’t get a thrill out of skydiving anymore.
Kolton is a quiet personality, which means he doesn’t give away too much of his National Guard life to his parents, Angie and Kevin. Kevin actually learned more about Kolton’s training when his curious bosses were asking questions than he’s ever gleaned from his son actually telling him. And Kolton could draw a crowd with some of the stories of his training.
His parents relayed one where all the Guardsmen were required to stand inside a tear gas chamber, which burns the eyes to even think about. The image of a bunch of teary-eyed men is apparently so funny that people will stand just outside the chamber and take pictures of those suffering when they come out.
It was another exercise centered on fighting fires that opened Kolton’s eyes to a career field he had never before seriously considered.
In addition to training with the Guard and playing for the Grays, Kolton volunteers at the North Bannock Fire Department in Chubbuck, is a semester away from his Associate’s Degree in Fire Services Administration at Idaho State and works full-time at the school fixing fire equipment.
“I’m like, ‘When do you sleep?’” Kevin said with a laugh.
“He’s gotten a lot of training through the Guard that he didn’t have to pay for. Last summer he got his red card … The red card, you’re like the cleanup guy. The yellow card, you’re on the edges fighting the fire. The green card, you’re right in the middle.”
That seems to be apropos for Kolton, a chance to run right into the flames.
Kolton almost joined the National Guard without telling his parents, but there are few things in life where an original copy of a birth certificate is needed and no mom or dad is going to fork it over without some questioning.
Kolton had a cousin who had been in the National Guard for a year by the time Kolton made his decision in Nov. 2018, which eased the shock for Kevin and Angie.
“We didn’t necessarily try to deter him, but we were like, ‘Are you sure?’” Kevin said. “It was out of nowhere.”
Not long after, Kolton phoned from Fort Jackson Basic Training in South Carolina – the first of three times the recruits were allowed to use their phones. Each time, Kolton called his mom first.
He told Angie his horror story of a first night at basic training. Kolton exited the bus and some kids decided they wanted to be the middle-school bullies of Fort Jackson, forcing Kolton to sleep outside until 4 in the morning. Hundreds of miles apart, they cried together.
“You realize how important the people around you and your family are to you,” Kolton said.
His family was at the Grays game Friday night, sitting in the front row of bleachers down the first-base line of Halliwell Park, within shouting distance from their son as Frederickson brought him out to the field and introduced “one of our very own” to the Pocatello crowd on Military Appreciation Night.
Sitting on metal green bleachers, Angie and Kevin beamed with pride as their son received a rousing ovation.
“Alright, Kolton!” Kevin shouted to his son.
A few months ago, Kevin wasn’t sure if he’d ever see Kolton on a baseball field again. For so many years, Kolton had made the baseball field his second home, developing into a strong-armed outfielder for Molalla High in Oregon who could throw naive runners out with 200-foot lasers.
Last year, he helped the Smithfield Blue Sox to the Northern Utah League championship, but seemed to be moving on from the sport that consumed so much of his childhood. Earlier this summer, Kevin was in town helping Kolton and his fiancé move into their Pocatello home. A few miles away, the Grays were holding their tryouts without Kolton.
Three days later, Kolton changed his mind, calling Frederickson and asking for a spot.
“Dude,” the Grays co-owner said, “absolutely you have a spot on our team.”
“I have these young guys who are like, ‘I need direction in my life,’ and he’s like, ‘Hey dude, look, this is paying for my college,'” Frederickson added. “For me, it’s a win-win. He’s a solid guy and a solid leader.”