Gear Spotlight: Take a Whirl in the Guard’s Whirly Birds

Imagine for a minute that you are in a movie. A disaster movie. A disaster movie where Mother Nature has lashed out across the region. There are fires and floods, high winds and rain, downed power lines throwing sparks into the air, and a young mother clutching her toddler on her roof trying to get away from the rising water, her tears mixing with the spray of water from the sky.

You are, of course, the hero of this movie because you are part of a National Guard helicopter flight crew preparing to go rescue that woman and her child. And you know in your heart that you will not let her down.

The Blackhawk does it all, from battlefield support to domestic rescue operations.

The Blackhawk does it all, from battlefield support to domestic rescue operations.

Now here’s the question: As the scene unfolds, which Soldier are you?

Are you the pilot or co-pilot? Are you the Soldier preparing to swing down in the harness? Are you the crew chief coordinating activities on the ground? Are you a mechanic making last-minute pre-flight checks to make sure the aircraft is mission-ready?

If you don’t like the search and rescue scenario, choose another: fighting forest fires, spotting activity on known drug routes, combat missions against enemies of our country. Take your pick, because the Guard has a helicopter for every eventuality. Here are a few:


After more than 50 years of service, the venerable Chinook is the Army’s unmistakable workhorse with its trademark dual rotors set fore and aft. Since the Vietnam conflict, Chinooks have been picking up, hauling, and air dropping Soldiers, vehicles, ordnance, equipment, relief supplies, and more.

But make no mistake, they may be an older design, but they are by no means obsolete. In fact, the Chinook just keeps getting better with age. Today’s Chinooks are more powerful than ever after several upgrades that essentially make it twice as powerful as the original model.

The roomy fuselage is large enough to carry vehicles like the Humvee (giving new meaning to the term “cargo”), 33 fully-outfitted Soldiers, or in first aid duty, up to 24 litters for injured Soldiers or civilians. But that’s not all, because it also features external hauling capability. Basically, a load that is too large to fit into the bay – like, say, a fighter jet – can be tied to the underside of the helicopter and air lifted to a destination.

One of the most distinctive features of the Chinook is the rear loading ramp and door. Not only does this simplify loading and unloading, but it allows skilled pilots to do the Pinnacle Maneuver, whereby they set down only the rear of the craft to offload Soldiers or vehicles, thus increasing the overall functionality of the Chinook helicopter.


From the largest common-use helicopter in the Guard fleet, we move to the smallest. The Kiowa Warrior is a combat-ready helicopter that is primarily used for armed reconnaissance missions in support of ground troops. It also is used in security, target acquisition and designation, command and control, light attack, and defensive air combat missions in support of combat and contingency operations.

With its Mast Mounted Site and highly advanced navigation and digital imaging system, the Kiowa Warrior very easily becomes the eye in the sky for National Guard operational commands. The Mast Mounted Site and onboard digital communications system makes it possible to send precise target information to other aircraft or artillery units, as well as provide near-real-time battlefield or operational imagery to command and control elements. Also, the Laser Designator provides autonomous designation for the Laser HELLFIRE missile or remote designation for other laser-guided precision weapons.


The Army National Guard designates the Blackhawk as a utility tactical transport helicopter. That means it does a little bit of everything. But in essence, it improves the overall mobility of the Guard’s ground forces.

In theater, it gives command full-spectrum support across the asymmetric battlefield. It can carry a fully equipped 11-man Infantry squadron into hostile territory, place a 105 mm howitzer along with its six-person crew and 30 rounds of ammunition, or provide MEDEVAC airlifts for injured personnel. It’s even armed with two 7.62 mm machine guns so Crew Chiefs can provide suppressing fire in hot landing zones.

Domestically, this is likely the helo that would be used in rescue operations and transporting people and equipment from place to place.


The Apache were among the fiercest and most feared of all the Native American tribal warriors in the 1800s, which makes them the perfect namesake for this impressive machine. Where the other helicopters on this list fulfill multiple purposes, the Apache Longbow was made for only one: complete aerial combat supremacy. And it delivers on its purpose with HELLFIRE missiles and a wicked 30 mm chain gun that puts fear into those who face it.

The Army’s “Fact Files” Web site describes the Apache Longbow’s mission thusly:

“[The Apache] Conducts rear, close, and shaping missions, including deep precision strike. Conducts distributed operations, precision strikes against relocatable targets, and provides armed reconnaissance when required in day, night, obscured battlefield, and adverse weather conditions.”

What that translates to in plain English is: “You really don’t want to mess with the Apache Longbow.”

So back to our movie. How will you be the hero of this thriller? Whether you envisioned yourself piloting these varied aircraft, or as part of the crew, or arming them, or making them airworthy, you can only do it in the National Guard. Go to the Guard’s job board to search for your starring role today.

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Buck Tradition: Increase the Role of Women in Non-traditional Occupations

Two National Guard Military Police officersThere’s an old riddle that psychologists use from time to time: A father and his son are in a car accident. They get to the hospital, both unconscious, and the child is rushed into surgery where the surgeon looks at the patient and declares, “I can’t work on this patient, he’s my son.”

If you’re like most people, you’re thinking, “But, but … how … was he adopted by the other man?”

Then it hits you. The surgeon is the boy’s mother.

You see, we often – and unconsciously – assign gender roles to various professions. It’s a fact that most surgeons are men. So are most police officers, firefighters, mechanics, helicopter pilots, plumbers, and construction workers. But certainly not all of them are. We’ve just been conditioned by years of historical precedent to think otherwise.

Well, to quote the incomparable Bob Dylan, “the times they are a changing.” Women represent almost half of the U.S. workforce and hold 51 percent of high-paying management and professional positions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Clearly, women are bucking tradition in professional positions, and it’s time to start thinking differently about gender roles in all careers because there’s no reason women can’t accomplish the same in every profession and trade.

The Army National Guard can help women make inroads through leadership and skills training, and with ample education benefits. And while combat positions are closed to women, hundreds more Military Occupational Specialties are available, such as the military equivalent of:

Police Officer: Dreams of donning law-enforcement blue? To join the 15.5 percent of the police force that are women (according to the U.S. Department of Labor [USDL]), wear green first as a military police (MP) officer in the Army National Guard. And while serving part-time as an MP is not a guarantee that you’ll be a civilian police officer, between the experience and the potential for preference on civil service exams, it’s something that can help your resume rise above the rest.

Firefighter: The USDL indicates that only 3.4 percent of firefighters are women. The professional experience that comes from the training and education you’ll receive as a firefighter in the Guard can go far in helping you enter this exciting and important field.

Pilots: The Guard operates a fleet of helicopters. We here at On Your Guard have never, ever seen a sign on the cockpit door that reads “Men Only.” But you’d think that were the case with the USDL statistics that say that only 1.3 percent of commercial pilots are women. Pilots in the Guard attend top-notch aviation training and participate in missions and training most civilian pilots only dream of.

Mechanical Trades: Is it difficult for women to find positive inroads into the auto service industry? Women in the National Guard find no such roadblocks. If you’re a gearhead, we’re here to support that and will expose you to a range of equipment that will test your skills and help you hone new ones.

Construction Trades: Which of the following occupations do you think have a female workforce of less than 2 percent according to the USDL: Carpenters, construction equipment operators, HVAC workers, cement workers, brick and stone masons, and plumbers? If you said “all of them,” you’d be right, but there’s something just not right about that statistic, is there?

So there you have it, the Army National Guard is a bastion of opportunity for people who want to serve part-time while developing skills that can serve as a foundation for any number of in-demand careers. Check out all the opportunities at and find position openings near you on our online job site.

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