Spotlight on: Part-time Service

The Balancing Act Between Citizen and Soldier

Established in 1636, the National Guard is the country’s oldest military branch and has fought in every major conflict in American history. Soldiers of the Army National Guard have always been citizens who served as the Nation’s first line of defense when duty called. Fast-forward to today and it’s the same: Everyone who becomes a Citizen-Soldier® still must find that balance between day-to-day life and military obligations.

Sergeant Brian Calhoun attends a South Carolina Army National Guard Warrior Leadership Course at McCrady Training Center in Eastover, SC, on April 7, 2015. (Photo by Courtesy Photo)

Sergeant Brian Calhoun attends a South Carolina Army National Guard Warrior Leadership Course at McCrady Training Center in Eastover, SC, on April 7, 2015. (Photo by Courtesy Photo)

Like Sergeant Brian Calhoun. Currently a photojournalist in the 108th Public Affairs Detachment, South Carolina National Guard, he has learned to master this balancing act for years.

“I initially enlisted in the South Carolina National Guard when I was a senior in high school,” said Calhoun. “I would go off and train on drill weeks, which made my senior year experience much different than my classmates’.”

Calhoun joined an Air Defense Artillery (ADA) unit that was brand new at the time and hadn’t even fielded its equipment yet. He trained to become an Air Defense Artillery Command and Control System Operator-Repairer and was assigned to Headquarters Battalion 1/263 ADA. When the unit was deactivated seven years later, Calhoun was at the end of his enlistment and decided to leave the National Guard.

“When my original unit deactivated, it was a good time for me to take a break from military service,” said Calhoun. “I had just completed mortuary college and was beginning my professional career as a funeral director. My new job would require me to work weekends, and I didn’t want weekend drill or annual training to interfere, so I decided to take a short break.”

Calhoun’s “short” break ended up lasting 16 years. “I never intended to be away from the Guard for that amount of time, and I always missed it. I think once you become a Soldier you never stop. A part of me was missing, and I wanted to get back in the Guard to fill that huge hole.”

When he decided to re-enlist in 2010, Calhoun turned to the Internet to find the perfect military occupational specialty (MOS) for himself. “I wanted my new MOS to be more like a hobby for me. I also wanted my new military skill to benefit my employer. When I found public affairs and photojournalism, I was surprised. I didn’t know the Army had this, and I was certain the South Carolina National Guard didn’t have this – or so I thought. I started making phone calls and the rest is history.”

Calhoun said he knew right away that being a public affairs professional skilled in writing, public speaking, photography, print layout and design, and managing social media would be an asset to his employer.

“Not only am I able to serve my Community, my State, and our Nation as a public affairs specialist, I am able to provide these same skills to my company and the families that we serve here in Charleston.

“I am very fortunate to work for a company that has embraced my desire to serve my country,” he added. “They have never hesitated when I have asked for time away to attend training or to answer the call.”

Like earlier this year when Calhoun attended and graduated from Warrior Leader Course (WLC) at McCrady Training Center in Eastover, SC. WLC is the initial leadership course for noncommissioned officers. During the month-long course, Specialists and Corporals prepare for the rank of Sergeant by learning skills to lead smaller groups of Soldiers.

“I knew my class would be full of young Specialists, or newly minted Sergeants, so I could not compare myself to them physically,” said Calhoun who is 43 years old. “But I went into the course and gave it 100 percent.”

As it turned out, Calhoun believes being older actually gave him an advantage.

“When it came to preparing a brief, giving a block of instruction, or being graded on leadership, I always received the highest marks because of my confidence. I believe my age and experience led to those qualities.”

On top of holding down a steady job, Calhoun also has a wife and two children. His family had as much to do with his re-enlistment as did his own personal desire to be back in uniform.

“I wanted my kids to witness, first-hand, me sacrificing time away from home for the benefit of the greater good. I wanted them to know that the benefits we have as Americans are not free and do not come to them without a cost.”

The National Guard responds locally to natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, forest fires, search and rescue operations, and more. At the same time, the National Guard has a Federal mission to maintain well-trained units available for mobilization during war or national emergencies.

“There is no doubt that being a Soldier benefits me every day. It gives me pride and confidence as a person, and it reminds me that I am a part of something that is much bigger than myself.”


If you think the Citizen-Soldier balancing act can benefit you the way it does SGT Calhoun, learn more about the National Guard by visiting our jobs board and contacting a recruiter today.

Original story by MAJ Jamie Delk was published in the news section of on Aug. 7, 2015.


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September’s Hot Job Is … 13D Field Artillery Tactical Data System Specialist

Each month throughout 2015, On Your Guard is spotlighting a “hot job.” What defines these featured jobs as “hot”? One all-important benchmark: number of times people searched for it on the National Guard jobs board. So, here’s what’s hot for September.

Are you smart with computers and math? Do people tell you how great you are under pressure? Does the idea of working with cannon and rocket systems seem pretty cool? If you answered “yes” to these questions, then you may be a perfect fit to train as a 13D Field Artillery Tactical Data System Specialist in the Army National Guard.

Watch this video about the 13D military occupational specialty (MOS) to get a first-hand look at what Field Artillery Tactical Data System Specialists do, and then read on to learn more about the job.

13Ds play an integral role on the team that provides fire support for infantry and tank units. Their main role: operating the tactical data systems on Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS). Specialists establish, maintain, and operate communications systems; prepare computer centers; set up the field artillery data systems; and determine target locations using computers or even manual calculations.

Plus, part-time 13D Soldiers gain valuable skills needed for in-demand civilian careers working with computer and communications systems.

13Ds must first attend 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training, followed by 7 weeks of Advanced Individual Training that includes both classroom learning and hands-on, in-the-field instruction.

Field Artillery Tactical Data System Specialists are eligible for any of the Guard’s outstanding education benefits, healthcare and life insurance, retirement programs, and more.

If you think you’ve got what it takes to perform these high-level technical duties for the Guard, visit our jobs board and contact a recruiter today.

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Math on the ASVAB

Four individuals taking a testSince On Your Guard has been talking about STEM careers all summer, with mathematics the focus for September, we thought we’d dedicate this week’s post to math on the ASVAB.

ASVAB stands for Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, and all National Guard applicants take the test to help figure out which military occupational specialties best match their academic strengths.

So … are you a whiz with numbers or do your palms turn sweaty at the mere sight of a word problem?

Truthfully, it doesn’t matter how you answer that question because, either way, it’s a good idea to do some advanced prep before you take the test.

First, learn what math concepts are included on the test (keep reading for that). And second, practice (you can find tons of free sample problems online or consider purchasing one of the many test prep books on the market).

What’s on the Test?

There are two math sections on the ASVAB: Arithmetic Reasoning and Mathematics Knowledge.

Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) – All the questions on this subtest are word problems. If you take the computer-based test, you will be asked to solve 16 word problems in 39 minutes. If you go to a location and take the pencil and paper version, you will be asked to solve 30 word problems in 36 minutes.

The math concepts being tested in the AR section include:

  • Basic arithmetic (addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication)
  • Speed/time/distance calculations
  • Percentages
  • Ratio and proportion
  • Interest (simple and compound)
  • Numbers (whole, real, fractions, decimals, and imaginary)

If you are still in high school (or are a recent grad), you’re probably pretty familiar with word problems by now, thanks to the new Common Core curriculum. If not, here are a few tips from McGraw Hill for tackling a word problem:

  • Read the problem all the way to the end before starting any calculations.
  • Look for key words (more than, reduced by, product, divided into equal groups) to learn what mathematical operation(s) to use.
  • List the important information given in the problem and eliminate the unnecessary details that do not help you solve it.
  • Draw pictures and graphics if that helps you to understand what’s being asked.
  • Create an equation from the info you’ve pulled and solve the problem.

Mathematics Knowledge (MK) – This subtest is designed to evaluate your grasp of high school math. If you take the computer-based test, you will have to solve 16 questions in 18 minutes. If you go to a location and take the pencil and paper version, you will solve 25 questions in 24 minutes. Since that’s about a problem per minute, you’ll need to be both accurate and quick.

The math concepts being tested in the MK section are more advanced than the AR section and include:

  • Algebraic equations
  • Geometry concepts, like circumference, angles and area
  • Adding/subtracting fractions with different denominators
  • Prime numbers
  • Factoring
  • Reciprocals
  • Factorials
  • Exponents

That’s it. From all of us at On Your Guard … practice hard and good luck!

P.S. During study breaks, you can learn more about math careers in the Army National Guard  by checking out our STEM Career Guide, visiting our jobs board, and contacting a recruiter.


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