Army National Guard Offers a Way to Pay Federal Student Loans

One of the Army National Guard’s best selling points is its ability to help pay for its Soldiers’ educations.

There are many paths to earning a degree without incurring a ton of debt or any debt at all, like the Guard’s Federal and State tuition assistance programs, but one benefit the Guard offers – the Student Loan Repayment Program – can pay down balances on Federal student loans a Soldier already has.

CPT Peter Brookes, the Enlisted Incentives Program Manager with the Army National Guard, explains: “The gist of it is that we pay 15% or $500 a year of the overall Federal student loans you have when you join the Guard, up to $50,000, inclusive of interest for a 6 year commitment.”

The most important caveat for the program, says CPT Brookes, is that the money goes to the lending institution – not the Soldier. Also, it’s not a one-time check to the lender. For example, for a Guard member who has $50,000 in Federal student loans, the Guard would pay 15% per each individual loan of that balance, up to $7,500 per year.

The Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) applies to only Federal loans. State loans and private loans do not qualify.

There are also requirements associated with a Soldier’s status within the Guard. Different standards apply for new Soldiers coming in with no prior service, Soldiers who have prior military service, and those who are already serving in the Guard.

CPT Brookes says for anyone new coming into the Guard, there are three basic eligibility requirements for SLRP – Soldiers must be high school graduates who are moving into a vacant position in the Guard and have a minimum Armed Forces Qualifying Test score of 50 and established Federal student loan debt.

As of this writing, CPT Brookes says new Soldiers can pick one of three incentives between SLRP, the Montgomery GI Bill Kicker, which is $350 a month that goes to a Soldier who’s enrolled in college, for up to 36 months, or a Non-Prior Service Enlistment Bonus for $7,500.

Some of those incentives can be combined with the Guard’s education benefits, which CPT Brookes describes as “unparalleled.”

“When you consider that for the vast majority of us, [Guard service] is a part-time job, it’s pretty phenomenal, he says. “I can’t even think of a civilian equivalent out there for education benefits for a part-time job.”

Not only can Soldiers take advantage of potentially earning free degrees through State Tuition Assistance Programs (programs vary by State), “you can still go and get your [Montgomery GI Bill] Kicker as well,” says CPT Brookes. “So basically you’re getting paid to go to college.” outlines all of the Guard’s benefits, but CPT Brookes says recruiters are the best source for information on benefits, incentives, or bonuses that apply to each State.

Your local recruiter can also help you decide on the job you’ll train to do in the Guard, called your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). For more information on Guard careers, check out our job board, where you can research more than 150 options in fields ranging from administration, to infantry, engineering, military intelligence, and more.

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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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Planning Pays off for Colorado Army Guard’s First Female Infantry Officer

Second Lieutenant (2LT) Wednesday Nelson is big on having a plan.

In fact, her advice for anyone who’s joining the Army National Guard like she did is to plan ahead, because it can be challenging to finish Guard training, line up a civilian job, and be able to take time off from that job for annual training.

So far, her ability to strategize is paying off.

2LT Nelson joined the Guard in 2014, finishing out her junior and senior years at Arizona State University in the Reserve Officers’ Training Program (ROTC), where she drilled with a National Guard unit and ROTC at the same time in the Simultaneous Membership Program. ROTC is a college elective that allows students to earn a commission as a second lieutenant in the National Guard straight out of college.

2LT Nelson had considered joining active duty components of the military, but the criminal justice major also knew she wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement. Joining the Guard, where military service is a part-time commitment, was a way to do both.

“Not only would I get amazing training out of being in the Guard, but also, it would teach me time management, teamwork, and a lot of things I don’t think I could have gotten with just being a college student.”

There was also a financial benefit. 2LT Nelson earned a full-time Guard scholarship that paid for her last two years of college in exchange for her service.

By the time she was getting ready to receive her commission, the restrictions barring women from combat roles had been lifted, and 2LT Nelson commissioned as the first female 11A Infantry Officer in Colorado.

2LT Wednesday Nelson at her commissioning ceremony.

2LT Wednesday Nelson at her commissioning ceremony.

That part hadn’t been planned in advance, but it was lucky timing, she says. As the first woman in her State to serve as an infantry officer, “It was important to me to set a good standard for people to follow. I wanted to do the best that I could, and show that it wasn’t a mistake to have integration in the combat arm branches, infantry and armor.”

She chose infantry because of the challenge.

Of the four others in her class who chose to commission infantry, “all of the guys were studs, they were all pretty much the top of the class, very motivated and very dedicated, and they gave me an idea of what the branch was going to be like. I wanted to be competing with the best.”

Although 2LT Nelson was offered a position as an infantry officer in Arizona, she chose to join the Colorado Army National Guard and relocate there because it’s geographically halfway between where each of her parents lives, plus the Denver Police Department was her No. 1 choice for an employer. After she decided to move, she was accepted to the Denver Police Academy, where she starts next month.

In the meantime, as an infantry officer, her job is to train Soldiers who serve as the main land combat force in the military. She also hopes to be a role model for other women.

Her advice for women going into combat-related jobs, because integration is still new, also goes back to having a plan.

“You have to carry your own weight, plus more. You have to go into this prepared,” she says. “There are people who don’t want you there. There are people who do want you there. But regardless, you have to be consistent. You have to train up for it.”

So if you’re interested in training up to be part of the Army National Guard, one of the decisions you’ll make as you plan your future is what to choose for your Military Occupation Specialty (MOS). The Guard offers more than 150 options in fields like mechanics and maintenance, administration, intelligence, transportation and infantry or another combat specialty.

Explore careers on our job board, and for personalized assistance, contact a recruiter today, who can also explain benefits like tuition assistance and the GI Bill.

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