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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Always Ready, Always There Reflects Guard’s Ability to Change with Times

An organization that is actually older than the country it serves could not have survived for nearly 380 years without being able to change with the times.

The Army National Guard, which will celebrate this milestone birthday on Dec. 13, continues to live up to its motto of “Always Ready, Always There” by adding new areas of focus and new career opportunities that reflect national trends. We at On Your Guard thought we’d take a look back at new initiatives and changes that got under way over the course of the past year.

Because cybersecurity is a top concern for anyone who uses technology, the Guard began focusing on standing up 10 Cyber Protection Teams in an effort to help the Nation better defend against cyber attacks. When we spoke with LTC Matt Chytka last fall, he anticipated Guard careers in technology and intelligence would continue to grow, just as they have in the private sector. 

National Guard Soldiers.LTC Chytka said the Guard was uniquely qualified to improve the country’s “cyber posture,” due to the fact that service is part-time, which allows a Citizen-Soldier® to attend school or work full- time in a private sector career.

“We have a very strong ability versus our active duty brethren to attract, and, particularly, to retain, highly skilled cyber military professionals that the Nation requires in order to maintain a keen cyber edge and superiority in the cyberspace realm,” he said.

While the Guard expands its career opportunities in STEM, it is also opening up more jobs to women.

The Guard, along with every other branch of the U.S. military, started seeing new faces in different roles last year as the Department of Defense (DoD) loosened restrictions regarding women serving in combat roles. Ultimately, the DoD announced in late 2015 that all military combat jobs, without exception, would be open to women who met the qualifications, like 2LT Tracci Dorgan-Bandy, who became the first female artillery officer in the South Carolina Army National Guard.

For her, a combat-oriented job was just one more area where she could prove herself and excel. Her previous Guard military occupational specialties (MOSs) included 25P Microwave Systems Operator/Maintainer and photojournalist.

“The Guard has opened so many doors for me, so many opportunities. I’ve never had anybody shut a door in my face in the Guard,” she said.

With more than 150 career fields to choose from, many of the Citizen-Soldiers we’ve interviewed say they appreciate the chance to move into career fields that might be completely different than their previous MOS, like SFC William Bart, who went into marketing and recruiting for the Alaska Guard after serving for years as 31B Military Police, which is one of the most searched for careers on our job board.

“You set your own destiny as far as your career goes,” SFC Bart said.

Of course, the best place to start thinking about your career destiny is to take a look at our job board, where you can search by keyword or location. You can also search by category, broadly defined as Administrative, Armor and Field Artillery, Aviation, Engineer, Infantry, Logistics Support, Mechanic and Maintenance, Medical, Military Police, Signal and Military Intelligence, and Transportation.

And for one-on-one advice, or answers to any questions you might have, contact a recruiter.

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