Citizen-Soldiers Talk About Their Dual Role

Watch this video to see why these National Guard members chose the dual role of a Citizen-Soldier. Here are a few things they have to say:

“A Citizen-Soldier is someone who serves his country and is a citizen at the same time.”

“In the civilian world, I’m a cake decorator. One weekend a month, I become a Soldier.”

“I have a little bit of Guard, a little bit of school, a little bit of work. I juggle all three.”

You can be a Citizen-Soldier, too. Visit the National Guard jobs board and contact your Army National Guard Recruiter today.

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‘This Is My Second Life’

PFC Darlene Jordan

PFC Darlene Jordan, financial technician

Private First Class (PFC) Darlene B. Jordan doesn’t let age or adversity get in her way. While she may be too modest to admit it, she’s been that determined all her life.

“My family was dysfunctional, so I spent lots of time in foster care. And then I became a teen mother at 15. I raised my son as a single parent until he turned 18 and moved out on his own.”

Despite being dealt a difficult hand early in life, PFC Jordan did what she needed to do to support herself and her son over the years. She worked various jobs near her home in Portland, Oregon – from office support jobs in human resources and accounting to driving a school bus because the hours aligned perfectly with her son’s schedule. She even managed to find time to take various community college courses.

There was only one thing she always wanted to do but couldn’t as a single parent without the support of an extended family.

“I had always wanted to join the National Guard. When my son moved out, I went through a bit of empty nester syndrome. I was 34 at the time, so I said, ‘OK, I’ll do it.’”

She put in her notice at work, sold most of her stuff, and headed to Basic Training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. From there, she went to the 369th AG Battalion in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for Advanced Individual Training (AIT) where she earned her 36B Financial Management Technician Military Occupation Specialty (MOS).

“When I enlisted, I gave up my whole other life. This is my second life. It was the right thing for me to do. I gave up some things but gained a whole lot of others.”

Like the full-time, dual-status financial technician job she now holds less than two years later with the Oregon Military Department in Salem.  PFC Jordan does her one-weekend-a-month drills and two-week annual training for the Guard, and at the same time provides payroll and finance support on a daily basis. For example, one of her main duties involves teaching Soldiers how to complete their paperwork before they deploy so that they get paid correctly and their families are set financially while they’re gone.

She says the educational direction the Guard has provided for her “second life” has been well worth her decision to join, as well.

“Before the Guard, I was going for an associate’s degree, but the courses I took weren’t focused. Now I’m taking advantage of tuition assistance, plus I was able to convert my Basic and AIT into college credits. I can finish my associate’s in finance in just a couple of semesters. I want to keep going, though, and get my bachelor’s.”

And, PFC Jordan says, the fringe benefits have even been transforming.

“I just ran a half-marathon – I’ve become a runner and love running with a group of my Army buddies. I’ve traveled places I’ve never gone before. I’m 40 hours a week, but we get an hour each day to exercise. I just love my job.”

She’s even joined a Toastmasters group. Originally, her National Guard Recruiter wanted her to consider a public relations MOS. She shied away from that suggestion, however, at the thought of having to speak in public.

“But the Army has standards, and one of the things they expect is that you can talk in front of people. So, I’m working on my public speaking.”

Of all the experiences she’s had since joining, PFC Jordan says she actually gained the most from Basic Training.

“It was tough at the time, but going through Basic was so amazing for me. You just learn to believe in yourself and that you can accomplish things even if you’re afraid to.”

She says being in her 30s among mostly high school graduates was no big deal.

“There was a group of about 20 of us out of 200 who were over 30. As far as the physical aspect of it goes, we were in the same shape as younger recruits, if not better. You’re more in your prime when you’re in your 30s. And it was easy for me to relate to them since I had a child their age. I helped a lot of them de-stress.”

So what does PFC Jordan’s son think of her decision to join the Guard?

“He’s very happy for me. He didn’t believe it at first, and then he saw me in my uniform and thought it was really cool.”

If you’d like to take your life in a whole new direction like PFC Jordan did, check out the Army National Guard jobs board and contact a Recruiter today.

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This Best Warrior Says: Be Fast and Smart

Enemy leaders are holed-up in a building 100 yards away from your current location. Your mission: get there, toss in a grenade, evaluate casualties, activate your Multiband Inter/Intra Team Radio, and call for MEDEVAC.

You scope out the terrain between you and your target. Time to move in. On the way, you encounter both civilians and enemy attackers. Think first. Take down the attackers. Do not shoot a civilian.

SPC Garfield Ferdinand completes obstacle course

SPC Ferdinand scales part of the Region 3 Best Warrior Competition obstacle course. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

“You have to be fast and smart at the same time,” said Specialist (SPC) Garfield Ferdinand after describing how he handled the above urban warfare operations simulation. The operations task was just one of the many extreme physical and mental tests SPC Ferdinand tackled last month during the four-day Army National Guard Region 3 Best Warrior Competition at the McCrady Training Center in South Carolina.

Like the physical fitness test at 4 a.m., in the rain, on Day One. He did 77 pushups in 2 minutes, 81 sit-ups in another 2 minutes, and ran a 2-mile course in 13:23.

Or the 20-obstacle course on Day Two that had to be completed in 8 minutes. Followed by the 6-mile march over hilly terrain in full Army gear (45-pound rucksack, boots, weapon at the ready) that had to be completed in 90 minutes.

“My back was a little sore after that. Some of the other Soldiers got blisters and had to go to the medics.”

Best of the Best

SPC Garfield Ferdinand, ruck march

SPC Ferdinand toughs out the 6-mile ruck march during the competition. (U.S. Army Photo by 1st Lt. Michael Thompson/Released)

Those blistered Soldiers weren’t just any Soldiers, by the way. They were the best of the best.

SPC Ferdinand is “Soldier of the Year” for the U.S. Virgin Islands National Guard. A 91C Utilities Equipment Repairer for the 651st Maintenance Company, 104th Battalion, he earned his Soldier of the Year title and the honor of going to the Region 3 event after clinching the top physical fitness score for his unit.

While at McCrady, he competed against nine other Soldiers of the Year, one from each Region 3 State. Eight noncommissioned officers (NCOs) also competed against one another during the event. The top-scoring Soldier and the top-scoring NCO advance next to the National Guard’s national event to determine who will represent the Guard in the Army’s 12th annual Best Warrior Competition, self-described as “the Super Bowl of Army competitions,” later this fall.

At each Best Warrior level, participants test their Soldiering skills by conquering warfare simulations, physical fitness tests, Warrior tasks, and battle drills, as well as written exams and board interviews.

Day Three at McCrady featured a 4-hour land navigation test in which the Soldiers had to find five targets over a large area given only a compass and a map, while Day Four concentrated on the Soldiers’ mental strength during interviews in front of a board of State Command Sergeants Major.

Paying It Forward and Looking Ahead

While he did not win the Region 3 competition, SPC Ferdinand said that he and his entire unit are benefiting from the knowledge and skills he gained that week. “It was really competitive. Some of the stuff, I never even saw before. The other Soldiers there taught me a lot, and I brought back what I learned.”

This chapter in SPC Ferdinand’s Guard career isn’t entirely over, however. He’s got his sights set on next year. “A goal of mine: I want to try to do it again. To see if I can be the best.”

In the meantime, he’ll continue serving part-time and gaining valuable skills in refrigeration repair in the Guard while studying mathematics at the University of the Virgin Islands. He also has his sights set on a civilian career as a math instructor.

“I wasn’t at a good job, and I wanted to go to college. Then I heard about the National Guard.”

SPC Ferdinand expects to graduate in about three years.

If you’ve got your sights set on the valuable skills and education you can gain by joining the Guard, check out the National Guard jobs board and contact your Army National Guard Recruiter today.

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