The Top 5 Reasons to Join the Army National Guard

On Your Guard sat down with Staff Sergeant (SSG) Mike Schriefer to talk about why people join the Army National Guard. We thought who better to ask than a recruiter, who’s also had a few different jobs in his nearly 14 years of service with the Guard. SSG Schriefer, who also served in the Active Duty Army, breaks down his top 5 reasons to join this branch of the U.S. military where Soldiers serve on a part-time basis. 

1. Education Benefits

SSG Schriefer says comparing the Guard’s education benefits to Active Duty’s education benefits is like comparing apples to oranges.

Active Duty components of the military receive only Federal benefits. Because the Guard’s primary mission is to serve the State and its governor, and its secondary mission is to serve the country, he explains, Soldiers are entitled to both State and Federal education benefits.

“It’s like having two Christmases,” he says.

So in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, where SSG Schriefer is a member, a Soldier can participate in a full-time degree program and receive either 100% tuition assistance for a state school or $3,619 per semester to other Pennsylvania schools, including private colleges, and technical and trade schools. It’s important to note that each State has its own policies in place.

That State benefit can also be combined with a Federal benefit like Federal tuition assistance to the tune of $4,000 a year for Soldiers who have completed one year of service after their graduation from Advanced Individual Training.

Yet another Federal benefit can pick up the tab for other expenses associated with going to college.

“Every Soldier who enlists gets the GI Bill, Select Reserve, which, while they’re enrolled in school 8-9 months out of the year, they get another $368 a month, tax-free, that goes directly to them that they can use for books, room/board, food, anything that they need,” says SSG Schriefer.

And, Soldiers who’ve already completed some or all of their education can be eligible for the Student Loan Repayment Program, which will pay up to $50,000 of student loan debt.

2. Job Training and Transferable Skills

When you join the Guard, you’ll get job training, too, in what is called your MOS, or Military Occupational Specialty. Your MOS may or may not line up with your educational pursuits or your civilian career. It can also change over time.

SSG Schriefer says these MOSs are always hot for new recruits in his State: 68W Healthcare Specialist, 31B Military Police, 11B Infantryman, and 19D Calvary Scout.

Many MOSs have direct counterparts in the civilian job market. The 68W MOS, for example, lends itself to working as an EMT in the civilian world. One of the questions SSG Schriefer gets is how Soldiers in combat arms MOSs like infantry and field artillery can transfer their skills to the workforce.

“They learn the invaluable skill of teamwork,” he says. “When you have to ensure 100% safety on firing a 155-mm explosive round downrange, you have to have flawless, seamless teamwork.”

SSG Mike Schriefer of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard.

SSG Mike Schriefer of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard.

Other skills: “You will also learn to work under pressure, critical thinking, dedication, and priceless leadership skills that are coveted by employers,” SSG Schriefer says. “Reliability, dependability, integrity – all those things, when you go to apply for a job, are going to make you shine over a regular civilian candidate.”

To help recruits decide on an MOS – there are 150 of them – SSG Schriefer asks them what they want to do and then directs them to to research MOS choices and check the qualifications.

Another helpful tool is the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test, which determines which MOSs recruits are eligible for based on their scores.

Changing one’s MOS is also possible, says SSG Schriefer, but not likely during a Soldier’s initial enlistment.

“The best time for them to change their MOS is when they come up for their first contract extension,” he says. “But, it never hurts to ask if you’re a stellar Soldier and you’re doing really good things.”

SSG Schriefer himself has been a 25U Signal Support Systems Specialist, 92Y Unit Supply Specialist, and a 74D Chemical Operations Specialist, all before becoming a recruiter.

3. Adventure: Finding Out You Can Do More Than You Could Have Imagined

SSG Schriefer says he was a tall, skinny kid who had played sports in high school, but, “I didn’t know how far I could physically go until Basic Training. I never knew I could run that fast, or carry a rucksack with 50 pounds in it for 12 miles. Mentally, I thought I’d never be able to make it through the gas chamber.”

At Basic, recruits can expect to do some rappelling. However, jumping out of airplanes at Airborne School and rappelling from helicopters at Air Assault School are reserved for select Soldiers.

“That’s used as an incentive. If you’re the stellar Soldier in the Unit, we’ll put you in for those schools,” says SSG Schriefer.

4. Being Part of Something Bigger Than Yourself

SSG Schriefer likes that his job is about serving the citizens of Pennsylvania.

“Our first responsibility is to take care of the people we live around, so that gives you a sense of pride,” he says. “The ability to give back to the community and share what the Guard has done for me on a daily basis is a great feeling.”

Another great feeling happens every time he arrives at drill weekend once a month. Patriotism, he says, can be seen and felt all around.

“All you have to do is look at the cars in the parking lot with flags, stickers, license plates and you see that these kids love their service, their country and love being in the military.”

This helps develop the sense of camaraderie for the less than 1 percent of the population who serve in the military.

“No one will ever know how we think, feel, act, or process things unless they have been in our shoes. That’s what creates the brotherhood,” he says.

5. Service to your Community, State, and Country (Which No Other Service Can Offer)

The idea of serving a dual mission to State and Nation is unique to the National Guard.

And while SSG Schriefer has served on just one deployment in service to the country – to Kosovo – he’s had many opportunities to help out on State missions, too, like flooding from Hurricane Sandy and delivering meals to motorists stranded by snowstorms.

But he’s found that his most fulfilling mission is in his role as a recruiter, “being able to be on the ground floor, being the first person and the first interaction with the military most people have, and being able to set them on a path of success, it shutters everything else out.”

So, if you’re ready to see how far you can take your career, especially when you don’t have to worry about paying for college, and you want to be part of a team that’s dedicated to protecting the community and the Nation, consider joining the Army National Guard. Explore our job board for information about each MOS, and contact your local recruiter for personalized advice.

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Guard Officer Keeps Soldiers, Citizens Healthy as Physician Assistant

As a youngster, John Price wanted to be a doctor and a lawyer.

“I took every hard class that you could take in school. All the calculus, high-level sciences, everything I could, just so I could keep my options open.”

He was pre-med in college, but decided to leave school and join the Army because the education he would need to achieve his career goals “was just way too expensive and I couldn’t afford it.”

So after serving in Korea as a Korean linguist in military intelligence, Price went back to school, went to ROTC to become an officer, and joined the Army National Guard as an intelligence officer. That is, until he heard about a different opportunity that lined up a little more closely with one of his childhood dreams – a military school for physician assistants that would be paid for through the Guard.

In the mid-1990s, all branches of the U.S. military consolidated their training for physician assistants into one program, the Interservice Physician Assistant Program (IPAP), located at Ft. Sam Houston in Texas. A physician assistant (PA) is a nationally certified and state licensed medical professional who can diagnose and treat patients, and prescribe medicine.

Now a Major in the Ohio Army National Guard, Price has been a 65D Physician Assistant for the last 9 years, where he has worked in his State’s Medical Detachment, where “the goal is to get everyone healthy and medically fit, medically ready to do their jobs,” and now as a full-time active duty Guardsman for a Civil Support Team (CST) “where we are first responders for large-scale disasters.”

MAJ Price (left) and his Civil Support Team practice their skills regularly.

MAJ Price (left) and his Civil Support Team practice their skills regularly.

The CST’s role is to protect citizens from chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) threats. And while the Unit is considered non-deployable for an overseas mission, it is hardly stationary.

“We can be called up 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

Based in Columbus, the Unit can be activated for sporting events, where MAJ Price has treated people for things like heat exhaustion, and high-profile events like the Republican National Convention held in Cleveland last year.

Plus, about one week a month, MAJ Price and the rest of his Unit will train in another city in Ohio, or usually in a nearby State, to practice different scenarios in dealing with CBRNE threats. They also work closely with police and fire departments to foster good working relationships.

“We get to do our job every day,” he says. We get to not only do it, but improve upon it. Then we get to critique it, and test each other on it so we’re constantly getting better.”

MAJ Price says he loves his choice of occupation.

“I think PAs have the absolute best job in the world. It’s one of the top 10 professions that you can have in America right now.”

He says one of the benefits of the job is its versatility.

“There are so many opportunities. You can go into any area of medicine. You’re not stuck. You don’t get specialized in one area.”

In fact, on top of his full-time job with the Guard, MAJ Price works at least one day a week in emergency medicine and urgent care in the civilian world.

And while some employers might frown upon moonlighting, the Guard is supportive of MAJ Price’s desire to take advantage of career development opportunities outside the military.

“It’s actually something that they want me to do, to make sure that I’m getting other skills, just like a civilian clinical person would.”

He brings those skills back to his small 22-person Unit, which has been together a long time.

“That’s one of the great things about the military, how we take care of each other, and the camaraderie on a small mission team that works together all the time, doing different scenarios. You can’t beat it.”

So if you’d like to be part of a team that’s dedicated to service, consider joining the Army National Guard, which offers career training in fields like medicine, intelligence, transportation and infantry. Check out our job board for details on each career – there are more than 150 of them – and reach out to your local recruiter to answer any questions you might have.  

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From Soldier to Citizen

An Iraqi Translator becomes a Guardsman and an American

SGT Abbas Mousa outside Joint Force Headquarters, District of Columbia National Guard

The official looking piece of paper that came in the mail wasn’t what Abbas Mousa thought it was. The Baghdad, Iraq, native thought he was being told to report for duty to help his new country. Instead, it was his U.S. Selective Service registration card.

Even though it was a mix-up, Mousa remembered the excitement he felt to be asked to serve the U.S. military again. It was because of his service as a translator for American troops in Iraq that he was able to immigrate in 2009 to Wisconsin, where he was working as a team leader at a warehouse for an Internet retailer.

He found that he missed military life and the camaraderie that comes with it.

“Living on a base for almost three years, the first American culture I learned was the military culture. I learned to love America before I’d seen America,” he says. “You bonded with these Soldiers on a personal level. They’re your friends, they’re your buddies.”

So after talking with military friends, Mousa decided to join the Wisconsin Army National Guard. He could serve close to home, near his family, and, because Guard service is part-time, he could still have a civilian career and get a master’s degree.

“Plus, I really felt like I would want to do something for my State, for my city, because the fact that I escaped the city that I love, Baghdad, kept haunting me,” he says. “I didn’t stay and defend my city, but I had no choice. There’s no organization or even a military that I trusted that I could join. Even the Iraqi military was corrupt.”

Not that working for the American military, which had occupied Iraq since 2003, sounded like a great option to him, either, back in 2006.

After graduating from college, Mousa worked for a construction company that eventually asked him to run a project on a U.S. Army base near Kurdistan, in northern Iraq, which was considered a safe area. It was either that or move back to Baghdad, which was dangerous, he said.

He was also wary of American Soldiers.

“I’d heard bad things about the U.S. military, especially after the Abu Ghraib [prison] scandal happened.”

But ultimately, he decided not to judge the American military as a whole based on the actions of a few. He accepted the job, and decided to trust what he saw with his own eyes rather than what he heard in the media.

He liked what he saw, and the Soldiers on base liked what they saw in Mousa, because once his project was complete, he was asked to become a translator for the military. He served in that capacity on the base for the next 2 1/2 years. He was also able to get his sister a job as a translator on base, which is what laid the groundwork for both of them to settle in Wisconsin.

Mousa’s sister and a Captain in the Wisconsin Army National Guard fell in love and got married on base, and, by coincidence, Mousa had a brother and sister who were already living in Wisconsin as refugees.

Because of their service to America, Mousa, his sister, and their family would always be targets for terrorists if they stayed in Iraq. They were able to obtain Special Immigrant Visas, which were set up by Congress for Iraqi and Afghani translators to immigrate to the United States.

And while he had fond memories of his homeland, Mousa said he didn’t think twice about leaving it.

“My mom always said the country where you have a home and a family – that is your country, that is your home.”

After joining the Wisconsin Guard in 2011, where Mousa worked as an 89B Ammunition Specialist and a 92A Automated Logistical Specialist, he was able to become a U.S. citizen.

After he finished his master’s degree in economics he decided to move to the Nation’s capital for a job as an economist in the Department of Commerce, and transfer to the Washington, D.C., Guard, where he is a Sergeant.

Washington appealed to him, in part, because it has an active storytelling community. In fact, you can hear SGT Mousa tell his story of living in and fleeing Baghdad, complete with his near misses with a car bomb and a kidnapping, on The Moth.

In his new city, SGT Mousa has been activated for three Guard missions, including helping with crowd management for two events on the same weekend in January – the Presidential Inauguration and the Women’s March on Washington – where the politically opposite audiences were enthusiastic and expressed their gratitude for the Guard’s presence.

“I met a happy crowd from two different parties with way different views on things,” he says. “I was happy both days.”

SGT Mousa says one of the benefits of serving in the Guard is being able to take pride in helping the community.

“I felt weak so many times in Iraq,” he says. “I will know what to do if my State ever needs me, and I know we’re probably far away from any collapse like what other countries are facing, but it’s good to know that you’re ready whenever you’re needed.”

So if you’re interested in stepping up to serve your community and your country, consider joining the Army National Guard, which offers training in more than 150 careers. Check out our job board to learn more, and for personalized assistance, contact your local recruiter

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