Written by: WSU Alum Shane Carlson ’16

“It’s a small world,” is a mostly overused cliché, yet in this improbable story, the cliché happens to hold more than a little truth.

Three former Winona State University alumni and student-athletes had never crossed paths before until long after their days spent on campus. 
Instead, they all met on the other side of the world at Camp Buehring in Kuwait while deployed with the same U.S. Army Reserve unit. 

Specialist Will Griffin, Major Meghan Goff and Sergeant Shane Carlson are all part of the 372nd Engineer Brigade deployed out of Fort Snelling, Minnesota. The unit just passed the midway point of a tour in support of Operation Spartan Shield. 

Will Griffin ’15

Will Griffin, of Minneapolis, attended WSU from 2012-2015 and studied criminal justice, finance and business administration. He was also a running back on the football team under Coach Tom Sawyer. 

In the summer of 2013, Griffin attended Basic Training in Fort Benning, Georgia as part of the National Guard Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) at WSU, returning back to school just in time for football season to kick off. 

Now a 12B Combat Engineer, Griffin serves in a variety of roles, including supporting combat missions with construction and demolition duties, while also ensuring the mobility of movement for friendly forces. 

“I felt called to serve since I was young,” Griffin said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and it’s helped shape me into who I am today.”
Griffin has enjoyed swapping memories and comparing experiences with the other two alumni.  

“It was crazy when I learned there were three of us here,” Griffin said.

Stories of ZaZa’s Pub and Pizzeria, Bloedow’s Bakery and hiking Sugar Loaf flowed with ease. 

Griffin said Coach Tom Saywer was instrumental in his growth as a player and as a man.  

“Coach Sawyer is the epitome of what it means to be a Winona State Warrior,” Griffin said. “He bleeds purple and white. To me, he represents loyalty because he had opportunities elsewhere, but he wanted to be at WSU.”

 

“It gave me a sense of comfort knowing there are other people here who understand WSU and the town of Winona.” Will Griffin 

The strength and conditioning coaches on staff at WSU also introduced Griffin to the intricacies of fitness and weightlifting, and ultimately led him toward his passion for CrossFit. More on CrossFit later. 

 

Meghan Goff ’02

Major Meghan Goff, of St. Paul, attended WSU from 1998-2002. There, she double-majored in French and dance. A double-major academically, she was also a dual-sport athlete, competing on the women’s gymnastics team in the all-around and on the women’s track and field team as a pole vaulter. 

Goff initially joined the military in 2011 as an active duty U.S. Naval officer where she served for four years before she transferred to the U.S. Army Reserve.  

 

Serving as a 65D Physician Assistant, Goff’s role as a military medical provider is to manage all patient care in the Brigade Aid Station, treat patients for routine and acute medical issues and oversee a team of medics.
She credits WSU for helping her develop into the leader she is today. 

“WSU has helped me to be as successful as I have been.”

Goff’s professors also helped her along the way and provided inspiration, particularly the since-retired dance program director, Gretchen Cohenour. 

“She was a wonderful professor and guide, always open and encouraging. I don’t think I would have dared as greatly in life if it weren’t for her,” Goff said. 

 

“My time as a student-athlete and undergrad at WSU gave me lifelong friendships and taught me the principles of discipline that I carry with me today.” Meghan Goff

Like Griffin, Goff has an affinity for CrossFit. In fact, recently, they both helped to organize Camp Buehring’s first-ever CrossFit competition, attracting 60 teams of two Soldiers each. The competition drew interest from not only the 372nd Engineer Brigade, but also nearby units and even foreign units from the British Army. 

The two have bonded over their shared love of CrossFit, and as certified coaches, they have helped countless others at Camp Buehring try something new and raise the fitness levels of Soldiers. 

Outside of CrossFit, Goff enjoys yoga, weightlifting and “any travel centered around wine tasting.”  

Shane Carlson ’16

Sergeant Shane Carlson spent four years at WSU, spanning from 2012-2016. Carlson studied journalism and competed as a member of the men’s cross country team, and captained the team his junior and senior years. 

The military was never a part of his life plan until after graduating, when he realized a greater calling.  

“I’ve always had the utmost respect for those who protect our great nation and stand for something greater than themselves,” Carlson said. “I wasn’t ready to give up being a part of a team, and I felt it was my duty to give back to the country that has afforded me so much.” 

Carlson joined the 372nd Engineer Brigade in 2017 as a 56M Religious Affairs Noncommissioned Officer (NCO), commonly referred to as a Chaplain Assistant. In his role, he aids and advises the Brigade Chaplain, and offers force protection as chaplains are non-combatants. 

WSU provided opportunities to grow and challenge Carlson.  

“WSU gave me so many good life experiences, but what I’ll remember most is the people I met along the way” 

“I got to work alongside, receive mentorship and interview people who made my time spent in Winona worth it.” Shane Carlson

Notably, Carlson said longtime journalism professor, Tom Grier was instrumental in coaching him through the journalism classes he took, and always had wise words of counsel which remain impactful today. 

In his free time, Carlson enjoys motorsports, the outdoors and spending time with his wife, Brittany. 

The U.S. Army uses the term, Warriors, to describe its Service Members dedicated to protecting our great nation. From their days putting on the jersey, leotard and singlet adorned with Winona State Warriors across the chest, to donning America’s away uniform, these three Soldiers are proud to represent the Warriors in more ways than one. Go Warriors!  
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