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.

Share on FacebookShare on Twitter

Guard Public Affairs Journalist Named Army Photographer of the Year

After the smoke clears, the Soldiers are exhausted from their mission, maybe even lying in the dirt to rest. Those are the kind of moments Sergeant (SGT) Harley Jelis waits for, turning his lens on people “when they’ve gotten to the point where they can let their guard down, and be themselves … without any judgment on them or trying to tell a certain story, just having people as they are.”

It’s unstaged moments, like the one below, that have earned SGT Jelis the title of Army Photographer of the Year for 2016.

An award winning photo of Soldiers resting after a mock firefight taken by SGT Harley Jelis.

A member of the New York Army National Guard, SGT Jelis took his award-winning shots while covering training activities for infantry, medic, and aviation Units at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk in Louisiana last summer. 

As a 46Q Public Affairs Journalist, one of his jobs is to take photographs, but this Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) also offers opportunities to learn and showcase related skills, like writing, editing, graphic design, and media relations, all to document and promote what the Guard does, whether here at home or far away.

It’s his photojournalism work far away from home, during a deployment to Kuwait, that SGT Jelis considers his most fulfilling assignment so far, in being able to tell stories and post pictures of Soldiers that got attention back at home via the Brigade’s Facebook page or other media channels, and being able to read reactions from proud family members.

SGT Jelis started his part-time service in the Guard in 2008, while he was in college studying documentary filmmaking and photojournalism.

“I wanted to give back a little more to the community and have that personal challenge.”

While mulling his options for military service, it was the mission that gave the Guard the decisive advantage.

“The National Guard’s dual mission of both the Federal side, and the chance that you might have to deploy overseas, or work on a Federal mission appealed to me,” he says. “Also the domestic service side, the ability to, after a storm, be able to help out my local town by passing out food or working on local roads, was one of the major draws.”

SGT Harley Jelis

SGT Harley Jelis

His original MOS was 13F Fire Support Specialist, but after bringing his camera along to drill weekends to work on homework, SGT Jelis was asked if he wanted to switch to an MOS that had more in common with his studies.

So he attended the Defense Information School in Fort Meade for Advanced Individual Training for his new 46Q MOS, which requires about 11 weeks of instruction and practice.

And by the end of that time, SGT Jelis says, Soldiers are able to interview people, write a 4-6 page feature story, take the photos to accompany the story, and design a magazine template in which the story is published – all from scratch and within the span of a few days.

But the learning doesn’t end there or even at the Unit level, where a 46Q might focus on one aspect of the job, but has the opportunity to “cross train with other people. So if someone’s very good at video or very good with photography, they can work with the rest of the people in their Unit to help them work on those skills.”

SGT Jelis says this MOS also requires self-directed learning.

“There’s no ceiling with photography, he says. “There’s always something else that you can learn. You need to put in your own personal time to get better as a writer, get better as a photographer, get better at doing video.”

After his deployment to Kuwait, SGT Jelis took advantage of the Guard’s GI Bill to help pay for his master’s degree in integrated marketing communications, which, like his MOS, directly applies to his current job in marketing outreach and admissions at a mental health and addiction treatment clinic in Connecticut. 

He says experience in the Guard of meeting people who have different backgrounds helps him with the admissions side of his civilian job, when he’s talking with families of people from all different walks of life who are helping a loved one seek treatment.

The Guard definitely improved my ability to work with other people,” he says. His assignments can take him to various places or Guard events where, “I need to be able to hop in and speak with anyone, or interview random people I’ve never met before, and have the confidence to do that.”

So, if you want a part-time career that will build your confidence, visit our job board to explore the Guard’s options in fields like administration, logistics support or armor and field artillery. And for personalized advice, contact your local recruiter who can also walk you through all of the Guard’s benefits like tuition assistance, which will help you take your career to the next level.

Share on FacebookShare on Twitter

Infantry Officer Reaps the Rewards of Service in Confidence, Leadership, and Camaraderie

While other kids were watching Cartoon Network, a young Travis Waller was watching the History channel. That’s partly his inspiration for wanting to join the military, but he also considers his part-time service in the Louisiana Army National Guard’s Infantry a tribute to his ancestors whose lives lacked today’s modern conveniences.

“We drive in our air-conditioned, climate-controlled boxes to work, we sit in our climate-controlled boxes at work, and there’s just nothing challenging,” says 1st Lieutenant (1LT) Waller. “I have this idea that our ancestors were the best of the best because they made it, and they got me here, so I kind of owe it to them to keep myself in the best of the best.”

In other words, he likes a challenge, and while he hasn’t deployed for a combat mission as yet, 1LT Waller is back from a recent weeklong stateside activation, helping to provide traffic control and security in New Orleans after tornadoes hit southeastern Louisiana in early February. 

“I’m really thankful that I’m able to help protect and serve our communities,” he says. “It’s something I’m really proud of.”

1LT Waller attended the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) while in college. It is an elective that allows students to earn a commission straight out of college as a second lieutenant in the Army Reserves or Army National Guard.

1LT Travis Waller

Despite living in Florida at the time, he joined the Louisiana Guard almost three years ago because the State had an opening for the military occupational specialty (MOS) he wanted – 11A Infantry Officer.

When he’s not serving in his Unit, 1LT Waller works in the private sector as a client support specialist at a company that processes payments to local governments. He’s also pursuing a master’s degree in business management that’s going to cost him roughly $2,500 out-of-pocket, thanks to the Guard’s tuition assistance.

“It’s been a lifesaver,” he says. “It’s crazy that I can get a master’s degree for $2,500.”

With a graduate degree in hand, he plans to help manage the business side of his wife’s photography business and move up the ladder in both of his careers.

“I want to advance myself in my civilian career, get myself into some sort of management position, and then on the military side, I hope it helps me move up the ranks on that end, too.”

As an officer, 1LT Waller enjoys being able to help develop Soldiers.

“I’m planning on staying for as long as they’ll keep me – 20 years or more. It really brings balance to my life.”

It’s also built up his confidence.

“I believe in myself, and I know I’m able to complete whatever task is given to me.”

His advice to anyone considering joining the Guard is “jump all in, be committed to it, and you’ll reap serious benefits from it, not just tangible benefits.”

The intangible benefits include leadership training, which 1LT Waller describes as second to none, plus the camaraderie that develops between Soldiers.

“I’ve been in fraternities, I’ve been in sports teams. Nothing compares to the sense of belonging that you find in the military.”

So, if you’re looking to join this team, one of the choices you’ll make is what career path to pursue. The Guard offers more than 150 choices in fields like artillery, medicine, engineering, and more. For more information, visit our job board and contact your local recruiter for personalized advice. 

Share on FacebookShare on Twitter