By Haley Jones

Ithaca Public Schools Superintendent Steve Netzley is trading in his suit for combat boots this October.

Following several months of training in the U.S., Netzley is being deployed to Iraq until 2021 as a Command Sergeant Major with the Michigan Army National Guard. His last day in the office is October 4. An interim superintendent will hold the position during Netzley’s 15-month deployment.

The balance between educator and active duty military isn’t a new one for Netzley. He enlisted at 20 years old when he was a sophomore at Central Michigan University. While he studied to be a teacher, he was also a member of 125th Infantry. As he completed his master’s in administration, he served in the battalion in Alma, Michigan, then continued to work his way up through military positions to reach his current role.

“I’ve been doing it from the time I graduated college to now – balancing two worlds,” Netzley said. “It requires me to be very organized and efficient with my time.”

It also helps that the school district he has worked in since 1996 is supportive of his service. You need that support from your district and your family to serve, he said.

Netzley said he loves both worlds, and that they complement each other. Much of the leadership training and experiences he has received in the military has helped him in “civilian life” and visa versa.

“The acronyms and jargon change, but when you are leading people, there are a lot of similarities and crossover there,” he said.

Now he’ll be crossing more than 6,000 miles to join ongoing operations in Iraq. Netzley will be stationed with his Public Affairs unit where they will support the Commander and work in content production, media relations, along with working with photographers and videographers.

While he won’t be on the “front lines,” Netzley said there is always risk in the military. His unit will travel via helicopter around the area with other soldiers and units on their missions.

“If you serve, your turn comes, and it’s my turn to go downrange,” he said. “I will miss my family and work here, but it’s part of the challenge. You do the mission when it’s time.”

Netzley will return to his superintendent post in January 2021.