An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

The Breakfast Club

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Emily Batchelor
  • 175th Wing

MARTIN STATE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Md. -- Amidst the early morning hustle of medical personnel, Maryland Air National Guard Senior Airman Rose Gurley, a dental technician assigned to the 175th Medical Group, noticed a common struggle. Many of the Airmen were skipping breakfast due to the early working hours. Leveraging her prior experience as a corporate event planner, Gurley pondered a solution. What unfolded was not just a remedy for growling stomachs but a transformative initiative. Just one question sparked an impactful change in the drill routine of the Airmen in the medical group.

“Do you guys want to host breakfast this Sunday,” Gurley asked at the weekly staff meeting.

From there the event only grew. Other members shared their ideas to figure out the logistics and offered their help. The members of the 175th Medical Group began to call it, “The Breakfast Club.”

“It takes a village, but people were excited to be a part of this,” recalls Maryland Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Jessica Bastin, a public health specialist assigned to the 175th Medical Group. “Every drill weekend people would come in and contribute their equipment from home, donate money, and bring their unique expertise to support The Breakfast Club. It was worth waking up early for.”

Volunteers from the 175th Medical Group would arrive two hours before the work day started at 4 a.m. with crockpots, griddles, and air fryers.

“Pretty soon people from other units caught wind of The Breakfast Club and started to come visit,” said Gurley. “It became a place where people could come together to network and learn about opportunities within the wing they would not have otherwise known about.”

Eventually, The Breakfast Club started charging $3.50 a plate to raise money for other team-building events. What started with a couple burritos for early risers turned into an opportunity for fostering new connections, building camaraderie, fundraising, and boosting morale at the start of the day.

“It all started with a question. If you have an idea, don’t hesitate to put yourself out there,” Gurley urges. “I could not have done it by myself. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when everyone comes together and you’ll never know if you don’t ask.”

Before enlisting, Gurley worked as an event planner and personal trainer. She originally never imagined herself joining the military. She expressed feeling bored with her daily routine to one of her long-standing fitness clients who happened to be a spouse of a Maryland Air National Guard member. What Gurley did not expect was the unwavering and consistent response from her client convincing her to join the Air Guard.

“We would meet at the gym for our training sessions and she would always tell me about all the benefits the Guard had to offer,” remembered Gurley. “She told me every day how it would change my life.”

While it sounded like an amazing opportunity, Gurley did not think the military was a good fit for her at the time, despite being physically fit and very organized.

After the lockdowns began from the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the value of job security and guaranteed benefits during uncertain times became an opportunity that Gurley couldn't pass up. She remembered her client's consistent encouragement. Gurley finally decided to reach out to a Maryland Air National Guard recruiter. In April of 2020, she virtually took the oath of enlistment over a Zoom video call.

While Gurley is no longer a corporate event planner and personal trainer, she continues to find creative and impactful ways to integrate her unique skills into her military service. For example, another question Gurley asked her team at the 175th Medical Group is, how can we continue to help motivate each other to stay fit when the whole team is only present one weekend a month for drill?

Since Gurley’s time working as a personal trainer, this was something that was important to her. After working through the details with her team, they decided everyone would report their steps, water intake, and exercise times to Gurley.

“I had a system to give all the members a ranking based on their fitness,” explained Gurley. “The highest members on the list got bragging rights. This became a fun competition in our office.”

Gurley discovered fulfillment in her ability to incorporate her past experience and positively impact both the individuals within the Guard and its overall mission.

“The great thing about the Guard is having the opportunity to bring your unique skills to the table to find creative ways to support the mission,” said Gurley.

Many members who serve in the National Guard have full-time careers entirely separate from their military job. An aircraft mechanic in the Guard may also be a school teacher full-time. The Guard is where civilian skills integrate with military training. Including opportunities to mentor younger service members with your experience to help them grow in their career.

“Moving forward, I would like to become a first sergeant one day,” Gurley explains. “I want to guide members through their personal development and be their mentor.”