Leading the Double Life of a Citizen-Soldier®

Fresh out of high school, Reanna Alvarez didn’t go off to college the following fall like the rest of her friends after graduation. If she wanted to pursue a degree, she was going to have to find a way to pay for it herself.

A friend mentioned that he was getting his school paid for through the Army National Guard, a branch of the military Alvarez hadn’t heard of, where Soldiers serve one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer.

The fact that Guard service was a part-time commitment carried a lot of appeal for Alvarez while she was mulling her options at age 19.

“You could be in the military, choose an MOS [Military Occupational Specialty] that you’re interested in, and then on the civilian side, you could do the same thing,” explains Alvarez. “You have the experience from the military that you could utilize as a civilian. Then, while you’re a civilian, you can be going to school.”

Now a specialist with the Maryland Army National Guard for the past five years, Alvarez’s MOS is 92A Automated Logistical Specialist. In her Engineering Unit, she is responsible mainly for vehicle dispatch, keeping track of keys and personnel paperwork. She also tests her Unit’s equipment, like gas masks, to make sure they are working properly. On the civilian side, SPC Alvarez says the job is comparable to working at a distribution center.

SPC Reanna Alvarez

SPC Reanna Alvarez

When she’s not at drill, at home with her two kids, or doing homework for college, where she studies psychology, SPC Alvarez is a waitress, where her co-workers marvel at her ability to stay calm in any situation.

“The Guard gives you so many traits you can use as a civilian,” she explains. “I’ve gone through Basic [Training], where you have so much going on, there’s people yelling, and so much thrown at you that it makes civilian life look like a piece of cake.”

SPC Alvarez had a harder time at Basic Training than others might. She was battling an eating disorder, and a Drill Sergeant had found out. That led to a meeting with the Commander who could have easily sent her home.

Instead, she received encouragement.

“He told me he saw a lot of potential in me and that I shouldn’t let [the eating disorder] define me, and he really wanted me to push myself.”

Part of the reason she’s chosen psychology for a major is because of her struggle with the eating disorder that started when she was 16, and partly because she wants to be able to help veterans someday.

In the meantime, she’s helped out at two major events close to home in her capacity as a Guard Soldier – the Baltimore riots, which took place in spring 2015, and more recently, the Presidential Inauguration last month.

“I think it’s very cool knowing that I’m going to be able to tell my kids someday, whenever they can understand, that I was part of that experience … not only at the inauguration, but pulling security for the inauguration.”

Another cool thing she can tell her kids is that she was in a National Guard commercial that tied in to the 2013 “Man of Steel” Superman movie. SPC Alvarez was one of about 20 Soldiers who were chosen out of thousands of applicants to fly out to Hollywood to shoot the commercial and meet the director of the film. You can spot SPC Alvarez walking on the sidewalk in a gray and black striped sweater at the 6-second mark:

SPC Alvarez says the connection between Superman and the National Guard is, that like Clark Kent/Superman, the Guard Soldier also leads a double life as part-time citizen/part-time Soldier.

Even in stressful circumstances, like the Baltimore riots that lasted for several days, SPC Alvarez says people were grateful to have Soldiers on hand.

“People were constantly telling us, ‘thank you for being here. Thank you for making us feel safe.’ At the end of the day, that’s all we try to do.”

So if you’re interested in keeping your community and the Nation safe, consider joining the National Guard, where you can train in one of 150 different career fields and take advantage of great benefits like money for college. Search our job board for descriptions of each career, or contact a recruiter for personalized attention. 

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7,500 National Guard Soldiers Serve at Presidential Inauguration

WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than 7,500 National Guard members from 44 States, Territories, and the District of Columbia were on hand to support the 58th Presidential Inauguration on Jan. 20.

“This is the Super Bowl event for the District of Columbia National Guard,” said LTC Nicole L. Brugato, a personnel officer at the National Guard Bureau who was part of the joint task force supporting the event. “Everybody from a private first class to [our] chief of staff is energized, and this is our opportunity to truly be the President’s Guard.”

Soldiers provided security, crowd control, traffic management, and logistics and communications capabilities while working with the Secret Service, United States Capitol Police, and the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, among other agencies.

SPC Shaleek Blackman, left, with the Delaware Army National Guard's 153rd Military Police Company, and SSG Eric Stunkard, with the Delaware Army Guard's 262nd Component Repair Company, keep an eye out as crowds make their way to the National Mall for the 58th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2017. (Photo by Tech. SGT Erich B. Smith).

“[The inaugural event] took so many integral parts, so many pieces for it to come out smoothly,” said PFC Michael Arthur, a military police officer with the Louisiana Army National Guard’s 239th Military Police Company, who worked with officers from the Transportation Security Administration at a checkpoint along the inaugural parade route.

While boots on the ground played a key role in ensuring safety and security, Guard members could be found underground as well. SGT John Garnett of the Tennessee National Guard’s 251st Military Police Company worked with officers from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Police in providing added security in subway stations near the Capitol building.

For Garnett, the day was an exercise in being “vigilant and resilient, and dedicated to keeping everyone as safe as possible.”

In addition to providing support to local authorities, about 100 Guard members provided traditional ceremonial support, including marching in the inaugural parade.

The National Guard’s presence in the Presidential Inauguration dates to 1789, when local militia units and members of the regular Army took part in George Washington’s inaugural events in New York City.

CSM Wayne L. Bowser, the senior enlisted advisor of the District of Columbia National Guard, said he hoped young Soldiers left with a sense of fulfillment and pride from taking part in the inauguration.

“There is a small percentage of folks who wear the uniform,” he said. “There is a smaller [percentage] who will get a chance to be a part of this type of event.”

As part of its dual mission to serve the Nation and the community, the Army National Guard can be called up for other stateside events, too, like natural disasters. So, if you’re dependable and looking to make a difference in your community, check out the Guard as a career option. Service is typically part-time and close to home. You’ll train in one of 150 career fields and be eligible for fantastic benefits like money for college.

Visit our job board where you can search by job category, like medical or logistics. You can also search by keyword or location. And for personalized attention, contact a recruiter.

From an original article by Technical  SGT Erich B. Smith, which appeared in January 2017 in the news section of NationalGuard.mil.

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High Flying Career Starts with the Need for an Education

SGT Tom Harrington, a crew chief with B Co., 2-147th Assault Helicopter Battalion, waves to B Co. (Battlehard) and D Co. (Wolfpack), 3-187th Infantry Regiment, Soldiers to approach the UH-60 Blackhawk to kick-off an air assault exercise at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, January 7, 2015. (Minnesota Army National Guard photo by SPC Jess Nemec/Released)"

SGT Tom Harrington, a crew chief with B Co., 2-147th Assault Helicopter Battalion, waves to B Co. (Battlehard) and D Co. (Wolfpack), 3-187th Infantry Regiment, Soldiers to approach the UH-60 Black Hawk to kick-off an air assault exercise at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, January 7, 2015. (Minnesota Army National Guard photo by SPC Jess Nemec/Released)"

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.

Sgt Tom Harrington keeps his eyes on a wildfire to release water from a Bambi bucket attached to a UH-60 Blackhawk in southeastern Kentucky, Nov. 5, 2016. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Robert Brumfield)

SGT Tom Harrington keeps his eyes on a wildfire to release water from a Bambi bucket attached to a UH-60 Black Hawk in southeastern Kentucky, Nov. 5, 2016. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Robert Brumfield)

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.

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