Soldiers All Walks

Celebrating Service: Highlighting the Varied Backgrounds of Maryland Defense Force Soldiers

The Maryland Defense Force comprises members from a broad spectrum of backgrounds, forming a diverse and multifaceted organization. Here is the story of two of those dedicated members:

Sgt. 1st Class (MD) Danni Schmitt’s journey with the Maryland Defense Force (MDDF) began in 2012, joining the MDDF Band as a clarinetist. She has not only performed in numerous events but also played a vital role during the Covid-19 pandemic, providing administrative support for MDDF missions. Besides her military involvement, Schmitt is deeply committed to education and music, serving as a band director at Roland Park Elementary School since 2007 and engaging in various music education roles. Her dual commitment to service and teaching reflects a dedication to mentorship and community engagement, earning her multiple accolades in both her military and teaching careers.

Capt. (MD) Christopher Burt’s story with the MDDF began in 2018, where he has served in various capacities including as the commandant of the MDDF Military Emergency Management Specialist (MEMS) Academy. Beyond his MDDF service, Burt has a significant civilian career in emergency management. He currently works with the American Red Cross, managing disaster response services in multiple counties, and has previously served with FEMA. Burt’s dedication to service extends into education, as he plays an active role in advising Prince George’s County Public Schools on emergency preparedness, highlighting his commitment to community service and disaster management.

The Maryland Defense Force is a diverse and multifaceted organization, with its members coming from a wide range of backgrounds. The force includes individuals like Schmitt and Burt, who balance their MDDF roles with significant civilian careers. Some members are veterans of the U.S. Military, while others come from various professional fields such as healthcare, education, and emergency management. This blend of experiences and skills enriches the MDDF, allowing it to provide comprehensive support and services to the State of Maryland. Their dual roles in both military and civilian capacities demonstrate a profound commitment to public service, underscoring The Maryland Defense Force role as a vital and versatile component of Maryland’s Military Department.

Service Comes Natural to Many MDDF Volunteers
Sgt. 1st Class (MD) Danni Schmitt joined the Maryland Defense Force (MDDF) in 2012 as a member of the MDDF Band, often called “Maryland’s Musical Ambassadors.” As a clarinetist she has participated in close to seventy performances and has also performed with the 229th Army National Guard Band when needed. During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic she was on state active duty and performed administrative support for several MDDF Covid-19 missions. In 2019 she was named the MDDF non-commissioned officer of the year. As part of the MDDF Band she previously served as the band librarian and currently serves as the acting first sergeant. She has even been a guest conductor.
Although her MDDF career has been impressive, it doesn’t tell the full story of her commitment to service. Schmitt also serves as the band director of Roland Park Elementary School in Baltimore City. She has held this position since 2007. While working at Roland Park she concurrently served as the concert band director at the Friends School of Baltimore’s Summer Outreach Program for several years. In addition, she previously had a stint as concert band director at Peabody Preparatory in Towson. “I am committed to service and I love teaching but I also believe that it’s important to give back and help others. Teaching, mentoring and service are my core values,” Schmitt said. Schmitt has received numerous military and teaching awards over the years. For three years she has also been a Grammy Music Educator quarterfinalist.
Capt. (MD) Christopher Burt joined the MDDF in 2018 and was assigned to the 10th Medical Regiment serving as the unit personnel officer. He later transitioned to the 231st Troop Command and served as the executive officer of the unit. Currently he serves as the commandant of the MDDF Military Emergency Management Specialist (MEMS) Academy which is part of the 27th Training Battalion. While serving on Soldier Readiness Processing support missions he helped to process over 300 Maryland National Guard soldiers who were activated for overseas deployments and Covid-19 stateside missions. Burt has obtained the Master Emergency Management Specialist badge and was honored as the MDDF officer of the year in 2021.
While this is commendable it’s not the end of Capt. (MD) Burt’s story when it comes to service above self. In his civilian capacity, Burt currently serves as the American Red Cross Disaster Program Manager for Montgomery, Howard and Frederick counties. In this capacity he oversees disaster response services and leads a cadre of 160 volunteers that are prepared to serve these communities when impacted by a disaster. Prior to this role, Burt served as an Emergency Management Specialist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and was deployed to disasters nationwide. “Service to me is about being accountable and responsible to your community and the world. Being of service to humanity I believe is the highest honor,” Burt said.
As a volunteer Chris also serves as the co-chair of the Prince George’s County Homeland Security – Emergency Preparedness Program Advisory Board for the Prince George’s County Public Schools. In this role he helps to provide guidance to the school system and teachers on trends in the emergency management field as they develop their curriculum. “I’ve had a great career and I’m really focused on preparing the next generation to get into this field. It’s the most diverse industry when it comes to job opportunities and every skill set is needed,” Chris shared. He also previously served on the Montgomery County Commission on Health.
“A large number of our MDDF volunteers are pulling double duty when it comes to their service commitment,” said Brig. Gen. (MD) Gregory J. Juday, commanding general of the MDDF. “They are committed to state service in their MDDF careers while also working in public service careers in their civilian roles. Our MDDF component includes medical professionals, emergency managers, teachers, firefighters, police officers, civil servants and more. These volunteers bring a commitment to service and professional expertise that makes the MDDF better and benefits the state of Maryland,” Juday added.
The Maryland Defense Force (MDDF) is the State’s uniformed volunteer militia unit providing competent, supplementary, professional and technical support and soldiers to the Maryland Military Department and the State of Maryland as needed. Established in 1917, the MDDF consists of nearly 200 personnel who perform legal, engineering, finance, medical, chaplain, field support and ceremonial services for the State of Maryland.
MAJ Stephen Rice
MDDF Public Affairs
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