Service to country, customers, and family

“I will always place the mission first.”

For Army Capt. Peter Schalmo, the opening words of the U.S. Army’s Warrior Ethos guides not only his military service, but his work as a farm casualty underwriter, a husband, and a father.

But service comes with sacrifice. “It’s that feeling of letting someone down. Not being there for family. Missing out on the school programs,” said Schalmo.

If it sounds like balancing family and work with military service is difficult, that’s because it is.

In September 2017, Schalmo was summoned for his third deployment. He was assigned to Operation Inherent Resolve as an operations officer in the Support Operations section (SPO) of the 248th Aviation Support Battalion, assisting the brigade with their resources.

The deployment spurred changes at both at work and at home. For one thing, he and his wife Elizabeth, an army veteran, enrolled their three children in school after several years of homeschooling. “Elizabeth told me that she couldn’t be teacher, mom, dad, and everything else!” Schalmo said.

At work, Schalmo’s had to give up an opportunity to be the farm underwriter for the team supporting Grinnell Mutual’s entry into personal lines in Pennsylvania.

Lessons from the front

When Schalmo arrived in Iraq, he found a different war and a different enemy than he had experienced during his first deployment there in 2006. Army field manuals could not anticipate every contingency he might encounter, and the military had drastically reduced its troop presence.

To successfully support the mission, Schalmo had to get creative with logistical support while staying within the rules. The lessons he learned as a farm underwriter at Grinnell Mutual served him well.

“What we do every day is build those relationships,” said Schalmo. “It’s calls, it’s exceptions, it’s explanations. It’s who we are.”

During his deployment, Schalmo kept up with things on the home front. Reading about Grinnell Mutual online was one way he made use of his downtime.

“That’s how I followed Jeff Menary’s progress recovering from West Nile Virus,” said Schalmo. “It motivated me.”

Before Schalmo could issue a challenge to Menary to see which of them would return first, Menary was back at work.

“It’s good that I lost that challenge!”

Next Mission: family

But Schalmo did finally get back stateside in September, ready for his next mission: father and husband. He took six weeks to reacclimate to life as a parent and spouse before returning to work. He took kids to piano lessons, picked them up at school, and made trips with them to Uncle Bill’s Pumpkin Farm, a local attraction.

He also reacquainted himself with the family field manual — aka, the family calendar.

“I considered coming back to work Oct. 22 until I checked the family calendar! With school conferences and other things going on, I needed to push it back three days,” said Schalmo.

Though he’s only a year shy of retirement from the Army National Guard, there is a chance Schalmo could deploy again. He and Elizabeth will wait at least six months before they even broach the idea.

Another deployment means more missing out on the rhythms and routines of family life.

 “We don’t want to decide when this deployment is so fresh in our minds,” Schalmo said. “It will be a family decision.”