Go Guard to Go to College

Group of three students on campusParadoxically, college has become so much more accessible yet much less affordable over the past decade or so. That means that while online technologies and the proliferation of satellite campuses make it easier for qualified students to attend classes, skyrocketing tuition makes paying for those classes harder and harder. It may seem that you either have to be from a wealthy family, be one of the lucky ones to get an athletic or academic scholarship, or commit yourself to years paying off student loans.

Well, let On Your Guard offer another solution: Join the National Guard.

National Guard members are eligible for a variety of programs exclusive to those who have answered their State’s call to duty. In fact, by joining the Guard and serving part-time, combining the programs, and selecting the right school, you can access benefits that could cover 100 percent of your college degree. So, while all your classmates are struggling to pay off their loans post-graduation, you’ll be getting something even better: a paycheck that hasn’t been obligated to loan repayment.

Here’s how you and the Guard can do this:

  • Since the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, or as it’s more commonly known, the GI Bill, military service has long been a great equalizer when it comes to paying for college. The Bill has gone through many changes in its nearly 70 years of existence, but the core of the legislation has helped millions of U.S. military veterans pay for degree or certificate programs, vocational training, flight training, or apprenticeships. Now known as the Montgomery GI Bill and Post 9-11 GI Bill, it entitles veterans to receive funds to pay for their tuition, books, and living expenses.
  • Then there’s the GI Bill Kicker. Whereas the GI Bill is a federally-funded program, the GI Bill Kicker is classified as a State-funded incentive. This means that Army National Guard members must apply and qualify for the funds. If you do, it can provide 36 additional monthly payments for up to four years of traditional college courses, assuming four years of college with a nine-month academic calendar.
  • Next is the Army National Guard Federal Tuition Assistance Program. This program, which can be used concurrently with the Montgomery GI Bill, will pay 100 percent of tuition costs up to $250 per credit hour (to a $4,500 maximum per fiscal year running 1 October to 30 September). Go to the right school (i.e., one that charges $250 or less per credit hour) and that’s 18 free credit hours a year. In other words, one free semester of full-time tuition.
  • Not to be left out, many States have education funding programs that Guard members can access in addition to the Montgomery GI Bill, Post 9-11 GI Bill, GI Bill State Kicker, and Federal Tuition Assistance. And these are programs available only to National Guard members because of their service to the State. They vary among the 50 States and four territories (District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) in which the National Guard is located. A local National Guard Recruiter is the best source for current information about State-specific benfits.

So there you have it. Four sources that could pay up to 100 percent of your college tuition. Combine this with the other benefits of Guard service (such as part-time service while you’re in school, gaining marketable job skills in one of 200 career fields, or training to be a leader) and the foundation for your future is looking pretty solid.

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ROTC is the Place to Be …

Students and ROTC member in college libraryThat sounds almost like an old-school hip hop jam: R-O-T-C is the place to be/Go to college and serve your country/from coast to coast and even DC … (Someone make it stop already!).

Regrettably, free-form rhyme is not an available career option in the military. If it were, we could learn to do it better. But if your goal is to earn a college degree and become a leader, the Army National Guard’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) could be the option you want to choose.

ROTC is a program that offers elective credits for those who wish to study military science. It combines classroom teaching with hands-on experience that develops leadership and management skills in dedicated learners. Strictly speaking, you don’t even have to commit to the military to participate in the basic course during the first two years of college, though you won’t gain any of the generous financial benefits of ROTC participation if that’s the case.

And those financial benefits are considerable. For example:

  • Army National Guard paychecks for monthly drill and annual training earning approximately $17,000 over four years.
  • Three years of the Montgomery GI Bill totaling more than $11,000.
  • The Montgomery GI Bill Kicker supplement for four years adds another $10,800.
  • ROTC monthly allowance during the academic year – freshman: $300/month, sophomore: $350/month, junior: $450/month, senior: $500/month

Though not awarded to everyone, Army ROTC scholarships pay for either 100% of a future officer’s tuition and fees, or a room and board option up to $10,000. Scholarship recipients also get a $1,200 book allowance each academic year and a monthly allowance that increases with each year of service. And that’s not all. Some Guard ROTC members are eligible for Federal Tuition Assistance and, depending on their military occupational specialty, an additional cash bonus.

Even given all that, the money isn’t the big draw for ROTC cadets, because money comes and money goes. It’s the leadership experience, command knowledge, and college degree that are transferable to any position the cadet chooses to pursue in the military or civilian world that makes it all worth it. The Officer’s commission they receive after all is said and done is pretty sweet, too.

The four-year Army ROTC program is divided into two parts: the Basic Course and the Advanced Course. By participating in the entire four-year program, cadets can major in nearly any field and still come straight out of college as a second lieutenant in the Army National Guard. Both courses will help you succeed in college and beyond, and a commission in the Army National Guard shows that you are prepared to take on a leadership role. Now combine that with your National Guard career training and you are well on your way to a rewarding civilian and military career.

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Five Critical Management Skills You Can Hone in the National Guard

A Guard member uses management skills to point the wayQuestion: How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

Answer: Practice, practice, practice.

The point of this old joke, of course, is that to achieve anything in life you have to practice. Management is no exception. It’s as much a skill as any other. And just like a trade or occupation, you have to work your way up through the ranks from apprentice to master. The Army National Guard provides fantastic options that enable a person to learn an occupation while drawing out and developing his or her inherent management skills.

Consider the following basic management skills and the careers available in the National Guard that sharpen them.

  • Basic Management Skill #1 – Planning: For a road trip, you have to plan who is going, what to take, where to stay, and what to eat before you even walk out the door. Now multiply that by several thousand people and several thousand tons of equipment. That’s what transportation experts in the Army National Guard have to do all the time. Needless to say, they get pretty good at it in fields like Transportation Management Coordinator, Cargo Specialist, and Motor Transport Operator.
  • Basic Management Skill #2 – Organization: Closely related to planning is organization. If all things are in their place, it’s a lot easier to fulfill requisitions, meet deadlines, and take inventory. In the Army National Guard, the best organizers are those in the Logistics Support specialties like Automated Logistical Specialist, Ammunition Stock Control, and Unit Supply Specialist.
  • Basic Management Skill #3 – Communication: The ability to relay vital information clearly and concisely is a critical management skill. Consider the Guard’s heavy weaponry, including cannons and missile launchers, which destroy targets from far away. Clearly it’s of the utmost importance to hit the appropriate target. That’s where the Armor and Field Artillery specialties like the Cannon Fire Direction Specialist come in. They must communicate the vital firing information to the rest of the team. Getting used to the giving and receiving of orders is a great way to learn this vital skill.
  • Basic Management Skill #4 – Monitor and Control: Now that the mission has been planned, organized, and communicated, what’s next? It must be monitored and controlled as it progresses. The most concrete example of this basic management skill is the Air Traffic Controller. They monitor all Army National Guard flights and control their progress by providing airspeed and altitude information and orders to the flight crews.
  • Basic Management Skill #5 – Adjust: Every situation is fluid. Dynamic. No one knows this better than an Infantry Soldier. Something can change at any moment, regardless of planning or organization, communication or controls. And there are times when a manager must exhibit decisiveness under pressure. In the Army National Guard, the Infantryman practices how to adjust quickly to every situation with calm, determination, and logic.

Many seek out specialty seminars or go to college for years to learn and hone the skills that the National Guard will actually pay you to learn. So check out the careers available to you in what is arguably the most intense and beneficial management training program you’ll find. Just go to the National Guard job board for info.

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