By the time Eric McVay was a senior in high school, the community service section of his resume was a mile long. It already included volunteer work for Portland-area food kitchens, homeless shelters, and Special Olympics events, as well as two service mission trips to Mexico (Tijuana and Vicente Guerrero) and a Hurricane Katrina Relief mission to New Orleans.
“My school did a lot of community service work to help others.”
So after graduation, when he was deciding which branch of the military to join, McVay went with what he knew: helping others, here and abroad.
“The National Guard really was a perfect fit for me. I could serve my country and my fellow citizens, still do global travel, and get my degree all at the same time,” Sergeant McVay recalls. “I’d always known in high school that I wanted to join the military. My whole family is military oriented. And I was in the Civil Air Patrol, U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, in high school, so that gave me a taste of military life.”
Choosing an MOS
Despite his early background and interest in flying, SGT McVay says he also was always interested in “ground pounding,” which is Army slang for ground-based operations.
“I did a lot of research and decided to join the Oregon Army National Guard as a Cavalry Scout, which is literally the eyes and ears for the commander. The long-range reconnaissance and surveillance mission set really fit my ground mentality at the time. You go ahead of the main body and scout out the area. Sometimes you stay ahead and offer cover as the unit moves through. It’s a very important mission. It drew me in.”
So, he headed to Fort Knox in Kentucky to complete four months of Basic and Advanced Individual Training and earn his 19D Calvary Scout military occupation specialty (MOS). His training taught him to gather and report information on terrain, weather, and enemy disposition and equipment; collect data to classify routes, tunnels, and bridges; perform navigation during combat; prepare ammunition and operate weapons; and employ principles of concealment and camouflage.
Continuing to Rebuild for the Greater Good
In the six years that have passed since first joining the Guard, SGT McVay has continued to grow, both personally as a citizen and professionally as a Soldier in the Guard.
He spent a year in Iraq at the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom helping to rebuild the country through training operations.
“Combat was drawing down. We were truly handing everything over to our Iraqi counterparts. We did a lot of work teaching them what we know. It was a very unique experience.”
A year later, he and his wife traveled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, with a friend on an earthquake relief mission to help rebuild an orphanage for disabled and dying children.
And from 2010-2012, SGT McVay was decorated with three Army Achievement Medals and two Army Commendation Medals for his National Guard service.
Pursuing the Next Chapter
Last year, SGT McVay decided it was time to finish training for the next chapter in his Citizen-Soldier® career.
“My goal is to be an officer and ultimately fly helicopters for the Guard. The Apache and the Blackhawk aircrafts are particularly interesting to me. In the civilian world, I’m training to be an aerospace engineer. I look to specialize in designing and optimizing space systems, like satellites, space vehicles, and rockets.”
The opportunity arrived after his wife finished her master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling and found a job near Tuscaloosa, Ala. He put in for an interstate transfer to the Alabama National Guard and was awarded an Army Guard ROTC scholarship at the University of Alabama.
Today, SGT McVay is pursuing a double major in aerospace engineering and physics with a minor in mechanical engineering. He expects to finish by 2015 and has been wildly successful in his studies thus far. He holds a 3.82 GPA in his major, is a member of the Sigma Gamma Tau National Aerospace Engineering Honor Society, and was awarded the University of Alabama Outstanding Transfer Student Award earlier this year.
“Personally, the Guard has been a strong, defining experience for me in terms of shaping who I am. Coming out of high school, I don’t think I would have had the confidence [to pursue a double major in aerospace engineering and physics] without having had the accomplishments I’ve had in the military.”
If you have a passion for serving your community and would like to know how the Guard can help you define your future, visit the Army National Guard jobs board and contact a Recruiter today.