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Serving his country – Amdahl joins Navy, continues ties to agriculture

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Piedmont, S.D. – Petty Officer First Class TJ Amdahl was raised on a registered Angus and Hereford operation in South Dakota. Agriculture was part of his everyday life, but as he graduated high school, TJ opted to pursue a career in the military.

“We miss him tremendously,” says TJ’s father Tim, “but we are proud that he wants to serve.”

As a child, TJ was raised showing cattle near New Underwood, S.D. The family later moved to Piedmont, S.D. He was the fourth of five children raised just east of Rapid City.

“He was home-schooled through the eighth grade, when he chose to go to public school so he could be involved in FFA,” Tim says.

Joining the military

TJ enlisted in the Navy at age 17 after graduating high school.

“I always wanted to be in the military growing up, but it wasn’t until I started high school that the Navy SEAL team came on my radar,” TJ says. “My parents signed a waiver so I could join the Navy at 17.”

At 18, he attended boot camp, went to BUD/s, or Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, and graduated with class 275, later joining Seal Team Seven.

“I did two platoons with Team Seven,” TJ explains. “That is like doing two deployments.”

After completing two platoons, he was slated to rotate to instructor duty when a position opened with the U.S. Navy Parachute Team.

“I didn’t know a lot about what the Parachute Team did, but I enjoyed jumping,” he says. “I definitely wanted to explore the air aspect of what we do in our job.”

Today, TJ is the newest member of the elite U.S. Navy Parachute Team, the Leap Frogs.

He comments,  “My job is amazing. I get to work with some of the best guys in the U.S.”

Leap Frogs

The Leap Frogs work to promote and represent the U.S. Navy. 

“We jump into professional stadiums, as well as high school football fields,” TJ explains. “We show people opportunities in the military. It’s more than just the SEALs. There are opportunities no matter what someone is interested in.”

They utilize their skills to capture the attention of young people from around the country and show them the wide array of options in the military.

“This job is a 180-twist from my past job,” TJ describes. “My job used to be more private, and now I’m participating on a public demonstration team. It took a bit to get adjusted to it, but I’m really enjoying it.”

The Leap Frogs travel across the U.S., and TJ mentions he is looking forward to coming to Cheyenne where the team will parachute into the Cheyenne Frontier Days grounds.

Instilling ethic

Tim says that raising his children in a ranching operation was important for their future.

“We purchased Baker Hereford Ranch north of Rapid City in October 2014,” Time explains. “We also continued to raise our registered Angus cattle.”

With 69 years of history in Hereford genetics and 42 years of Angus genetics, Tim mentions, “I think all of our kids would say that being on the ranch taught them to always finish the job. No one else shows up to finish the second half.”

TJ adds, “My parents handed down that work ethic that we see in agriculture.”

“A lot of SEAL teams are made up of awesome men from all over, but particularly in my class, there were some ag guys,” he continues. “It is the hardest thing to wake up every morning and force our bodies to keep going, but that work ethic came from my parents. They taught me that we can take a break, but when the work needs to get done, we have to keep going until its finished.”

Coming home

TJ, his wife Alicia and eight-month-old daughter Tatham live in San Diego, Calif., and he works in Cornado, Calif. today. However, they are excited for the chance to move back to South Dakota in a few years.

“Right now, I have a couple of years left in the military,” TJ says. “My wife and I are working to build our Angus herd. We are running on shares with my dad and brother.”

Tim notes that TJ has been working to build his agricultural base while supporting his family through his military endeavors.

“Instead of buying cars with his bonuses, TJ buys cows,” says Tim. “We care for TJ’s registered cattle when he’s away.”

TJ notes, “It takes time to get into agriculture. I wanted to serve my country and work with some of the best men in the military through Naval Special Warfare, but I’m looking at eventually getting back into agriculture in South Dakota.”

As they continue to increase their cowherd, TJ mentions that he and Alicia will move back to South Dakota when they can support their family through the cattle operation.

“My passion is for registered Black Angus cattle,” he says. “I really appreciate not only the genetics the breed is pursuing temperament-wise but also the OCC genetics and easy-fleshing cattle.”

At the same time, TJ says he is open-minded about the future of his herd, including a wide array of genetics that could improve the cattle.

He also credits agriculture and his faith in Jesus Christ as a driving influence in his life, saying, “Agriculture and my faith have given me the foundations of who I am and the work ethic that has helped me be successful.”

Ranching and service

TJ Amdahl’s passion for cattle and agriculture is a driving force in his life, and the Amdahl family has also instilled the passion for agriculture in their other children.

“We have a daughter who married and ranches north of Wall, S.D.,” TJ’s father Tim says. “We have another daughter ranching by Midland.”

“The kids learned early how to run the tractor, operate the feed wagon and truck and to do all the work on the ranch,” he continues. “They work cattle on horseback and behind the chutes. They continue to do that today.”

After serving as the Commissioner of School and Public Lands, Tim ran for Congress, and though he didn’t win, he says, “It was a great experience, and all the kids learned about the importance of giving and giving time. They are much more aware of what is going on because they know how important it is.”


Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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