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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State Spotlight: Washington

Combat Medic Skills Help Soldier Save Lives in His Civilian Job

CAMP MURRAY, Wash. – When Deputy Sergio Sanchez arrived at the scene of a drive-by shooting during a night patrol shift with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department in Spanaway, Wash., he found a man bleeding from his leg.

Sanchez, 28, a six-year veteran in law enforcement, exited his squad car with his personal first aid kit and instantly went to work.

The victim had a bullet wound that went straight through his leg and was bleeding profusely. Within minutes, Sanchez stabilized the man’s injuries with gauze and a tourniquet for transport to the local hospital.

Sanchez didn’t learn his life-saving skills on the police force. He also serves as a combat medic (68W Health Care Specialist) with the Washington Army National Guard‘s Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion, 146th Field Artillery Regiment.

“I knew exactly what injury he had and immediately I knew what to do,” he said, referring to the gunshot victim. “It was essentially what I learned in [combat medic] school [at Fort Sam Houston] in San Antonio.”

Having formal military training as a combat medic has given Specialist (SPC) Sanchez an extra skill set that often sets him apart from his peers in the police department.

“We don’t usually see that kind of qualification and experience with a brand new deputy,” said sheriff’s department Sgt. Glen Carpenter, Deputy Sanchez’s shift supervisor, adding that most deputies do not have formal training as a medic or a first responder.

Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy Sergio Sanchez also serves as a Specialist and a combat medic in the Washington Army National Guard.

Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy Sergio Sanchez also serves as a Specialist and a combat medic in the Washington Army National Guard.

The drive-by shooting was not the only time SPC Sanchez has used his Army medic skills in his capacity as sheriff’s deputy. Several weeks after that incident, he was called to the scene of a hit-and-run where he found a man lying in the middle of the road.

“When we got closer we saw a large amount of blood coming from his head,” he said. “He was not responsive and barely breathing.”

SPC Sanchez said his training kicked in, and he stabilized the victim’s neck and spinal cord. He applied gauze and pressure to the head injury, and soon the injured man began to show signs of life.

“He eventually started moaning, so that was a good sign,” he said. “I just kept him stabilized until [the] fire [department] got there.”

SPC Sanchez was hit with the medic bug when he was a young boy and came across an old first aid bag from his father’s time in the Army.

“[I] was immediately drawn to what was inside, and spent hours studying the many different pieces of medical equipment,” he said.

However, even with his training, SPC Sanchez said he doesn’t think he, alone, saved these two people’s lives. As a combat medic he is trained to treat, stabilize and move patients on to higher care.

“I just treat and stabilize until fire personnel get there. They start doing [higher level] medical intervention.”

Being a combat medic allows SPC Sanchez to be a much more valuable commodity to the profession he loves so much.

“Being a deputy … I love it,” he said. “Not every day is the same. Being a medic adds a way for me to be helpful and effective to the citizens and my partners.”

So if you’re looking for a way to help your fellow citizens, consider joining the Army National Guard, which has a dual mission to serve the community and the Nation.

Service in this branch of the military is a part-time commitment, and this flexibility allows Soldiers to pursue civilian careers. You’ll receive training for a Guard career, too. Check out our job board to explore more than 150 options, in fields like engineering, aviation, military police, medicine, and armor and field artillery. And for personalized advice, contact your local recruiter, who can also walk you through the Guard’s benefits like money for college.

From an original story by Tech. Sgt. Erich B. Smith, National Guard Bureau, which originally appeared in the news section of in May 2017.

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State Spotlight: New York

Deployments Make Army Guard Doctor a Better Hometown Physician

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. - Ebola and malaria aren’t diseases doctors working in the hometown of the Baseball Hall of Fame normally expect to encounter.

But Dr. William LeCates, a kidney specialist and medical director of Bassett Healthcare Center has experience with both diseases, as well as battlefield medicine, as a result of his “other” career as Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) William LeCates, a New York Army National Guard doctor.

His military career, said LTC LeCates, has only served to make him a better physician overall.

LTC LeCates joined the New York Army Guard in 2009, putting his knowledge and skills to work for American and allied military personnel.

He said he always had an interest in serving in the military, but medical school, establishing a medical practice, and having three kids along the way meant putting off that aspiration.

Finally, with his family settled in Cooperstown, his practice established, and the realization that at age 39, he needed to join the military now or never, he decided to seek a commission in the Army Medical Corps.

“The Guard was a perfect fit for me,” he said. “I knew we could stay in our home, Debbie (his wife) and my kids could be secure and fixed in our schools and the community, and I could carry out my military duties.”

LTC LeCates serves as a member of the New York Guard’s Medical Command, or MEDCOM. He conducts medical readiness assessments at Camp Smith Training Site and Fort Drum, and treats Soldiers during training periods.

His service has also meant deploying overseas, including twice to Afghanistan and once to Liberia.

His first deployment in 2010 was with the Iowa Army National Guard’s 334th Brigade Support Battalion at Camp Blackhorse, Afghanistan, as an augmentee to the battalion’s medical company.

LTC William LeCates, shown on deployment in Liberia, serves as a doctor in the New York Army National Guard and as a kidney specialist in private practice. He said that his service in the Army Guard has given him a greater breadth of medical knowledge benefiting both his civilian and military patients.

LTC William LeCates, shown on deployment in Liberia, serves as a doctor in the New York Army National Guard and as a kidney specialist in private practice. He said that his service in the Army Guard has given him a greater breadth of medical knowledge benefiting both his civilian and military patients.

LTC LeCates worked in a barebones medical clinic – “Role 1” in military parlance – where the job was to provide basic primary care, emergency treatment for injuries and wounds, and stabilize patients so they could be transported to more sophisticated treatment facilities.

His second three-month deployment, the standard for reserve component doctors, was in New Kabul Compound, an American military facility in the heart of Afghanistan’s capital city, in 2013.

This time he worked at a major U.S. forces headquarters as one of the physicians for 800 American personnel. The compound was also adjacent to an Afghan military hospital, where he worked with Afghan medical personnel to treat casualties.

LTC LeCates’ most recent deployment was a six-month non-combat mission to the West African country of Liberia, where he had an opportunity to see medical care at both the individual and large-scale levels, as the country dealt with the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak.

“The country is small enough, and the cities are close enough, that in a single day I could be in a Liberian clinic looking at young kids that are getting malaria, and in the evening I could be working at the ministry of health and helping to understand their Ebola response efforts.”

Overall, his military experience has been a tremendous benefit to his work as a doctor back home in Cooperstown, a place he chose for his career because he gets to perform complicated, challenging medicine in a small-town setting, LTC LeCates said.

“I think military leadership training is the best type of leadership training available,” he said. “I am fortunate in my civilian job to have an opportunity for a medical administrative role here at the hospital, and that [military] training in mentoring and motivating helps.”

The military medical system is also very effective at using lessons learned, and making on-the-spot improvements in clinical care, he added.

“The civilian sector is slower at those changes. It has given me a chance to look at how a big system can bring about changes to make improvements,” LTC LeCates said, adding that military doctors have pioneered new trauma care techniques on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, and knowing those skills is always useful.

“The Army is very good at training its deploying doctors to understand the basics of point-of-injury care, and how to keep the Soldier safe,” he said.

So, if you have an interest in the medical field and serving in the Army National Guard, you don’t have to wait until you’re done with medical school to join. Visit our job board to learn more about these Guard careers:

68W Health Care Specialist

68X Mental Health Specialist

68P Radiology Specialist

68E Dental Specialist

68S Preventive Medicine Specialist

68G Patient Administration Specialist

68K Medical Laboratory Specialist

68J Medical Logistics Specialist

Experienced nurses, doctors, and veterinarians also are needed. Contact your local recruiter to learn more about any questions you have.

From an original article by Eric Durr, New York National Guard, which appeared in the news section of in March 2017.

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