Above: Brendan is pinned by his father with the rank of 2nd Lt. at his TXSG OCS graduation ceremony.
“I really appreciate your help and support. You pointed me in the right direction, and I’m so glad I joined the Texas State Guard.”
-Brendan Steinhauser (’13) to IWP Career Services Director Derrick Dortch
Brendan Steinhauser (’13) has had quite a few achievements in his career thus far: He has been recognized by Time magazine as one of “40 Under 40 Rising Stars;” he and his wife have co-founded their own successful public relations, government affairs, and political consulting business; and he has been teaching on the faculty of St. Edward’s University. This year, he has taken on a very new experience: he has recently completed Officer Candidate School (OCS) for the Texas State Guard (TXSG).
What inspired him to serve in this way, in mid-career when his hands are already full?
In 2017, Hurricane Harvey came through his home state of Texas. “It was devasting,” remembers Brendan. “I had a lot of family, friends, and acquaintances who were impacted by it. I know folks who rescued people on boats and drove buses to get evacuees out of harm’s way. My wife and I helped with food banks.”
This experience prompted Brendan to think seriously about engaging in some sort of service to his community. After considering volunteering for the Red Cross, he and his wife had twins. After two years of domestic chaos, Brendan again contemplated serving in some way.
“As I began to think about different experiences that I wanted in my life and didn’t have, the military was high on the list,” said Brendan. The problem was that he was in the middle of his career with three kids: active duty and being away from his family for a long deployment did not seem like an attractive option.
He decided to reach out to Derrick Dortch, IWP’s Career Director: “I always found Derrick to be helpful to other IWP students, and I watched him make himself available to anyone who asked. I figured he would be the best person to help navigate my options with regard to the military, but also to help me figure out generally how to serve in the wake of the pandemic, civil unrest, and other challenges.”
After understanding what Brendan wanted to do, Derrick suggested the Texas State Guard and helped Brendan navigate the process. Brendan commented, “I am appreciative of Derrick for his counsel and his advice. It says a lot about him and about IWP that he took the time to work with me, even though I got my degree in 2013. He was extremely helpful throughout the process. It means a lot to me.”
After enduring walks through winter water and crawling through freezing mud, Brendan graduated from OCS first in his class in academics. He commented, “The IWP education helped prepare me for OCS in terms of the reading I had already done about leadership and statesmanship, including about good and bad leaders in history. In OCS, we researched and wrote papers on military leaders and studied the philosophy of leadership. I also went in with some knowledge of how the military operates. There were some surprises along the way, but studying military history and the role of the military in a free society at IWP contributed to my understanding of how it operates.”
The TXSG OCS that Brendan experienced is modeled on the Army OCS at Ft. Benning, and the training and headquarters are located right near Brendan’s home in Austin. He was able to complete OCS without dropping the ball in his day job, where he advises political candidates, elected officials, nonprofits, and individuals on political and public affairs issues. “My clients were very understanding during OCS,” said Brendan. “They were congratulatory and appreciative.”
Brendan’s next step with the TXSG is to rotate to different departments within headquarters to get exposed to the work that they do, including personnel, communications, shelter building, and the Texas Emergency Tracking Network. They will probably also be helping distribute vaccines. Soon Brendan will get his first assignment to a unit. “There is no shortage of work to be done in Texas,” said Brendan.
When asked whether a State Guard would be a good option for other IWP graduates, Brendan said, “Without a doubt, especially for those of us who are in a stage of life with a family and full-time work obligations, but a desire to serve in the military. It can be hard at times with the training and deployment, but you can make it work.”