A Man of Two Uniforms

Ben Garland

Ben Garland takes his oath to join the Colorado Air National Guard in front of Broncos headquarters on May 30. (PHOTO: ANDREW MASON / MAXDENVER.COM)

Ben Garland grew up nursing two dreams: to serve in the Air Force and to play for the Denver Broncos. Wednesday afternoon, they came together when he was sworn into the Colorado Air National Guard.

Joining the Guard is part of Garland’s five-year post-graduate Air Force Academy commitment. He was on active duty in the Air Force the last two years, commissioned as a lieutenant working in public affairs. He will continue his public-affairs work with the National Guard for a six-year hitch.

“This allows me to fully serve my commitment, as well as try to make this team,” Garland said.

“I got to practice today, then I got to put on the best uniform in the world, which is this Air Force uniform. ”

Garland could be called up to active duty in the U.S. Air Force. In that case, he would be placed on military leave, as he was the last two years.

“The chances are slim, and obviously I wouldn’t want to spend any time away from this facility if I don’t have to,” Garland said. “But if they’re called up, I’m ready to go.”

After spending the offseason and preseason of 2010 in Broncos camp, Garland considered going through the 12-year commitment required to become an Air Force pilot, but passed, opting to stay on land while keeping his NFL options open.

“It was tough to put down the pilot training,” Garland said. “But I spoke to my chaplains, my grandfather, my family, and made my decision.

“My big thing is that I want to be a part of the Air Force, and I have that opportunity. I also have the opportunity to play for the team I dreamed about playing for. It was tough, but I’m really happy.”

He’ll work in public affairs — the same field in which he worked for the U.S. Air Force the last two years.

“This is exactly the kind of work I’ll be doing,” Garland said, turning to a reporter and scanning the dozen or so cameras that surrounded him. “Working with media and trying to get our message out as quick and fast as possible so we can make sure our local audience, as well as our internal audience, knows what we’re doing and how we’re helping them out.”

More photos follow:

Ben Garland

First salute.

Ben Garland

Garland receives applause from onlookers, including Air Force Academy football coach Troy Calhoun, a former Broncos assistant.

Ben Garland

Garland receives congratulations from Broncos coach John Fox, whose longtime appreciation of the military stems from growing up as the son of a Navy SEAL.

Ben Garland

Garland can now pursue his football dream while maintaining his Air Force commitment.

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About Andrew Mason

Andrew Mason has covered the NFL since 1999, when he worked as an editor on NFL.com when the site was managed by ESPN.com. He worked six seasons (2002-07) covering the Broncos on their official website and two (2008-09) on the Panthers' site. He began MaxDenver.com in 2010 and now contributes to CBSSports.com, The Sporting News and The New York Times.

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