Happy Holidays & See You Next Year!

2015 Just AheadWith Thanksgiving and the holiday season approaching, On Your Guard is taking a break until January.

Over the past year, we’ve enjoyed sharing the stories of why Soldiers from all over the country and all walks of life choose to serve in the Army National Guard, as well as what kinds of jobs, training, opportunities, and experiences they’ve had as a result.

We hope you’ve been intrigued enough by these stories to explore the multitude of military occupational specialties that are available within the Guard. More importantly, we hope you’ve been inspired by how those skills not only translate to a civilian career, but also empower you to serve your community and your country.

Happy Holidays and see you next year.

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Marketing for a Greater Cause

1LT Rachel_Petruska Olson

1LT Rachel_Petruska Olson

Rachel Petruska Olson had a life a lot of people would envy. In the late 1990s, she and her husband, along with their two young sons, decided to trade the drudgery of their native Minnesota winters for the tropics by moving to the Caribbean island of St. Martin and starting their own marketing and advertising company.

The business did well, but the fourth year into their venture, something devastating happened back at home — the terrorist attacks of 9-11, which Petruska Olson says “threw my life into perspective.”

After that life-altering day, she decided for sure that she wanted something more meaningful. “I felt I needed to give more and do more. I knew I needed to bring my job skills into a career that served a greater purpose.”

It was the beginning of a two-year transition in which both Petruska Olson and her husband decided to move back to the States, enlist, and become officers. She decided to reach out online to an Army National Guard recruiter in Minnesota, where they still maintained a house. At age 40, she started basic combat training (the maximum age at the time was 42; today it is 35), followed by Officer Candidate School.

As part of their training, Soldiers choose a military occupational specialty (MOS). For Petruska Olson, it was military intelligence. In fact, she was the first woman to serve on the battalion staff in the 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 194th Armor Regiment in the Minnesota National Guard.

There are many branches to choose from in the U.S. military, but for First Lieutenant (1LT) Petruska Olson, it was “that aspect of being able to help locally in a disaster situation, being able to help your neighbors and your friends and family” that solidified her choice to serve in the National Guard, which has a dual mission of serving the community and the Nation. It was also a good choice for her because she was able to drill and train close to home and family, plus take advantage of the Guard’s “amazing” education benefits.

Thanks to those benefits, 1LT Petruska Olson soon earned a bachelor’s degree in public health, which then led to a civilian job with the American Red Cross as a disaster specialist.

When the Red Cross offered her a job in Texas just last spring, she was able to request an interstate transfer within the Guard. She’s now attached to the Texas National Guard’s Recruiting and Retention office, where she is putting her military intelligence MOS to good use, but in a unique way — by analyzing the effectiveness of the Guard’s outreach throughout the State, which has numerous and sometimes vastly different economic, social, and political demographics.

So instead of enticing tourists to St. Martin’s hotels and resorts, 1LT Petruska Olson now helps to fill the ranks of the Texas Army National Guard with “fabulous Soldiers.” She says she’s falling back on her marketing skills, but now it’s just “marketing for a greater cause.”

Above all, she says the Guard’s best selling points come back to its opportunities for growth.

“I went in thinking, ‘What am I going to give to the military, what am I going to give to the community, what am I going to give to the country?’ And what I found at the end is what it actually gave me. It gave me courage, it gave me strength, it gave me education, and it gave me opportunities I would have never had if I’d never joined.”

As for future opportunities, 1LT Petruska Olson is currently looking into masters’ programs in environmental health focusing on infectious and disease control in her new home state. “There are so many opportunities, so many amazing paths you can take, that I definitely see myself staying within the Guard.”

If you’d like to “give more, do more, and have a more purposeful life and job” like 1LT Petruska Olson, explore all the “amazing paths you can take” by visiting the National Guard jobs board and contacting a recruiter today.

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Happy Veterans Day

Soldier saluting American flagOn this special day, On your Guard would like to thank all Veterans — anyone who has served in the U.S. military in any capacity — for their service.

Many of the Soldiers we’ve featured on this blog have served in war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. We honor them and also recognize that service to our country comes in so many forms. Over the past year, we’ve posted about Soldiers who are training in cybersecurity to protect our information systems, Guard cooks who volunteer their off-duty time to provide meals for military families, and thousands of others who have helped to clean up or prevent further damage from fires, storms, and other natural disasters.

Many have said they joined the Guard because they were inspired by family members who are Veterans. We are inspired by today’s uniformed services members who will one day be Veterans, as well as by all who once served and did their part to keep our Nation safe.

To all we say, Happy Veterans Day.

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