Surviving the move

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- "We heard we were going to Mountain Home towards the end of my freshman year," Christen Riedel said. "You think mountains, a nice place. Not a desert, not dry, no tumbleweeds."

As a military child, Christen has had his fair share of moves and starting over.He kept an open mind, but he wasn't ready for the arid, smoky conditions awaiting him - Idaho in the peak of wildfire season.

His father, Kelly Riedel, received orders to Mountain Home Air Force Base, where he would become the 366th Civil Engineer Squadron first sergeant.

"Arriving here, Christen and I were riding in the same car," Kelly Riedel recalled upon initially pulling up to base. "Christen looks at me like 'what the hell are you getting us into?'"

Harsher environmental conditions wouldn't be the only challenge. Christen was about to start his sophomore year of high school without a familiar face in sight.

"It was rough leaving all my friends. It was probably the hardest move on me because I was a freshman and transitioning," he said.

His shyness prevented him from speaking up and saying who he was. He wanted to be more than just "one of the military kids" at his new school.

So, he joined the football team.

He said that the other players at first didn't take him serious. "I proved them wrong the first day," Christen said. 

He said playing football in Oklahoma is a lot more demanding than in Idaho, preparing him to step up and take a varsity spot as a sophomore and opening up new social circles.

During an offensive line blocking drill on the first day of practice, he said he demolished one of the biggest kids on the team, Sal, who later became his first friend.

"My whole sophomore year, all my friends were in the sports that I played, football and basketball," he said. "That's how I made all my friends."

Although he primarily made friends through sports, he learned with anyone, he could just say hello to get the process started.

Soon, he found himself surrounded by friends from all walks of life, enriching his high school experience.

Watching him work through the ups and downs of moving has helped pave the way for Hunter, his younger brother, who started high school this past fall. Hunter said he learned from Christen on how to navigate through the social complexities of his freshman year, by becoming a leader, hanging out with the right people and being a student before an athlete.

Hunter will follow in his brother's footsteps even more closely next school year after his father retires to South Dakota. He will be starting his sophomore year, like Christen did the previous move, but this time he will have a good idea on how to make the transition go smoothly.

"I know I won't have my brother watching over me anymore and that will be different," he said. "But it's a new trail, and I'm making a new path."

Christen is starting another journey for himself, moving for college.

"Being in the military, moving around and all that, you know what it's like to move and start a new life," Christen said. "I really think [my experience is] going to help me more than people who stay in one spot."

"You just have to go out there and make friends," he said.