Working his way through college wasn’t working out so great for Tom Harrington as the U.S. economy started to crash in 2008.
The Lexington, Ky., native needed a better way to pay for school. He had considered other branches of the Armed Services, but found that joining the Army National Guard offered several advantages. He could serve part-time near the college he was going to attend, the Guard had openings available in the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) he wanted to pursue, plus this particular MOS made him eligible for the GI Bill Kicker, which meant a little extra money could be put toward earning his degree in aerospace management.
Now a sergeant with the Kentucky National Guard, Harrington is a 15T UH-60 Utility Helicopter Repairer. The UH-60 is better known as the Black Hawk, which is the Army’s most versatile helicopter. It is used in combat situations, search and rescue operations, firefighting, and transportation of people and supplies.
Not only does SGT Harrington repair and maintain the helicopters, he gets to fly on them as well.
“Black Hawks also give you the option, as a 15T to fly and become a crew chief, and that’s what I wanted to do,” he explains.
As a crew chief, SGT Harrington takes care of anything that is transported by the helicopter, from passengers to freight. During a wildfire in his State in November, that meant filling the “Bambi buckets” that attach to the helicopters with water and dousing hot spots. SGT Harrington also documented his Unit’s response to the fires with his camera. He has an additional duty in the Guard to serve as Unit Public Affairs Historian.
SGT Harrington appreciates the variety his MOS affords: “Everything’s different every day, and I’ve been able to do a lot of different things.”
A self-described “proverbial car guy and gear head,” there’s always something to fix in his role as a mechanic. As a crew chief, he’s been a part of counterdrug missions and, during the recent fires in Kentucky, “doing whatever we could to save homes and property. That was a really fulfilling mission.”
Another assignment SGT Harrington is proud of was a deployment to Kosovo in 2009 and 2010. This UN peacekeeping mission gave him the chance to see how everything he learned in AIT (Advanced Individual Training) fit into the big picture in a deployment. His duties included troop transport, VIP operations, and cargo hauls.
“It was a cool cultural experience. I didn’t think at 22, I’d be sitting in Kosovo, former Yugoslavia, working with Germans, Italians, Croatians, Slovenians, Swedish, just to name a few.”
As he looks back on his decision to join the Guard at age 20, he sees how his experiences contributed to his personal growth.
“Going to Basic [Training], going to AIT, coming back, that all gave me a different perspective. Getting deployed and learning how to work with so many different people, so many different cultures, that definitely made me grow as a person.”
His Guard experience also helped him with his full-time career as a civilian contractor who works as a crew chief on Black Hawks for the Federal Government.
“The Guard set me up with a fantastic opportunity for civilian employment and it all, pretty much, directly translates.”
In fact, he credits the Guard for giving him a leg up on becoming eligible to take the test for an Airframe and Powerplant license through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that will allow him to advance in his civilian job.
“There would have been no way I could have had the opportunity to go take the test and do it without the Guard.”
So, if you’re interested in finding out how the Guard can help you with a career, visit our job board, which lists vacancies that can be searched by MOS, job family, keyword or location, or contact a recruiter today who can explain the Guard’s benefits like money for college and low-cost health insurance.