SOF civil affairs soldier’s unique perspective playing golf in China

By Joseph Barker U.S. Army Recruiting Command

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Staff Sgt. Ian Milne recently took his place among the world’s elite military athletes during the 7th International Military Sports Council Military World Games.

Milne, a U.S. Army Special Operations civil affairs operator and recruiter assigned to Fort Bliss, Texas, joined nearly 10,000 military personnel from more than 100 countries in China's Wuhan
province in October. His weapon of choice: a golf club, specifically, the driver.

“The experience was unbelievable,” said Milne, a former collegiate all-American and three-time national golf champion with Fayetteville State University. “I played golf with people I never expected to play with. I never thought that I would one day be representing the U.S. military as a golfer and have the opportunity to play with other Soldiers that are also representing their respective militaries.”

The path to collegiate stardom was not a straight line. Powered by a strong desire to serve his country, Milne enlisted in the Army fresh out of high school as a multichannel transmission systems operator-maintainer. However, his love and passion for the game of golf continued to manifest itself in the shadows of his promising Army career.

As a Soldier, Milne religiously played all the military courses where he was assigned. He continued to hone his skills while the Army provided the means to advance his personal and professional education. Following his initial enlistment, Milne left the Army to pursue his education at Fayetteville State University.

Milne joined the university’s golf team and quickly rose to the top of the collegiate ranks, leading the Broncos to three national championships while simultaneously earning the individual title twice. Following graduation, Milne qualified for a tour event and did well enough to qualify for the National Assistant PGA Professional Championship, but it just wasn’t enough to keep him going.

“I realized I wasn’t going to get any sponsors, and it takes a lot of money to stay on tour,” Milne said. “I made the decision to go back into the Army to take care of my family.”

It was tough to leave golf, but an easy decision for a family man with a wife and two children. Although he initially reentered the Army in the same career field he held during his first enlistment, Milne wanted to do something different. Drawing on the same motivation that powered his exceptional golf prowess, he competed and earned a position as a civil affairs operator in the U.S. Army Special Operations.

“Being back at Fort Bragg in the 82nd (Airborne Division) prepared me for the physical side of the civil affairs selection process,” Milne said. “For me, the academic side was harder. I expected the physical, but the academics were a surprise.”

After completing 43 weeks of grueling training and earning his position as one of the world’s most elite Soldiers, Milne emerged from the Civil Affairs Qualification Course with a renewed determination to advance his professional career and simultaneously pursue his love of golf.

“I did some research online about the all-Army golf team and asked my ARSOF (Army Special Operations Forces) chain of command if I could try out,” Milne said. “They gave me the time off to go, and I made it. After that, it was the all-services team and from there I made the CISM team.”

Milne began the competition one stroke over par on the Tainwaitan course for a first-day score of 73. He finished the second round with 74, and on the third day, he ended the round with a par score of 72. An 80 in the final round gave him an overall 11 over par.

The men's team captured an overall bronze medal at Tianwaitian Golf Club after four days of Military World Games championship play. Milne led the U.S. men, finishing 12th among 71 golfers from a dozen nations.

Milne credits his ability to travel and play golf at this level to ARSOF for giving him not only the time to train, but also for allowing him to understand the broader strategic implications of this international competition and partnerships forged through athletic competition.

“The chance to go China and do this was special,” Milne said. “I hope I get this opportunity in the future, this was one of the best experiences of my military career and I am thankful for it.”

The U.S. military finished the games with nine total medals; one gold, three silver, and five bronze.

The 7th International Military Sports Council Military World Games was the largest military games since the event's establishment in 1995. According to the CISM executive committee, the purpose of this year’s games was to highlight military glory and world peace.