This Independence Day, We Say “Thank You”

Independence Day | U.S. flag | Declaration of IndependenceThis weekend marks the 239th year since our Nation declared its independence and every person’s Right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Over the last century alone, these “unalienable Rights” have been tested countless times. From conflicts and wars to today’s landscape of terrorism and cyberattacks, our U.S. service members are unwaveringly resolute in their mission to protect the freedoms we declared so many years ago.

On Independence Day – July 4, 2015 – On Your Guard says “thank you” to all members of the military, as well as the Department of Defense, for all you do to protect these United States of America.

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ESBs Rock, at Home and on the Battlefield

A blizzard with 40 mph winds blasts 30 inches of snow and ice across a major metropolitan area that already had significant accumulation. The situation is dire: Snow drifts have trapped people in their homes, and the roadways are riddled with accidents and stranded vehicles.

Emergency personnel are activated, the Army National Guard is called up to help, and then … power blacks out across the region, major communications systems go down, even cellular towers are affected. Emergency response grinds to a halt.

Unless … the Guard had already sent in its Expeditionary Signal Battalion (ESB). Sure, the city’s major systems would still be down. But since ESB personnel deployed with their vehicles equipped with power generators, satellite uplink terminals, network nodal systems — you get the picture — emergency telecommunications and computer transmissions can continue uninterrupted.

Major Aaron Radlinski, who is currently standing up a new ESB for the Michigan National Guard, says these are the same self-sufficient mobile units that go out ahead of the troops to establish battlefield communications in the harshest of environments.

With Michigan’s previous ESB having been stood down 12 years ago, MAJ Radlinski says he feels fortunate that he was chosen to stand up the new 156th Expeditionary Signal Battalion. A former Signal Officer in the Army, he joined the Guard in 2005 after returning from Iraq and is currently the full-time officer in charge of the 177th Police Brigade. The 156th will be subordinate to the 177th when it is fully operational this September.

In the months leading up to the battalion’s official standup date, MAJ Radlinski says they are gathering and training 490 mostly part-time Guard personnel to staff several ESB companies. He says the great part about being trained in one of the many ESB military occupational specialties (MOS) for the Guard is that Soldiers can then apply those skills to get full-time civilian jobs working for large communications providers. Depending on the MOS, they might do things like troubleshoot networks, install fiber optics, build cell towers, maintain communications providers’ vehicles, etc.

Whether you live in Michigan and want to train for one of these new ESB positions or you live in a completely different State that has an Expeditionary Signal Battalion, here are the main types of positions you could train for (click the links to see open positions across the Nation and read MOS job descriptions):

25B Information Technology Specialist

25C Radio Operator-Maintainer

25D Cyber Network Defender

25E Electromagnetic Spectrum Manager

25F Network Switching Systems Operator-Maintainer

25L Cable Systems Installer-Maintainer

25M Multimedia Illustrator

25N Nodal Network Systems Operator-Maintainer

25P Microwave Systems Operator-Maintainer

25Q Multichannel Transmission Systems Operator-Maintainer

25R Visual Information Equipment Operator-Maintainer

25S Satellite Communication Systems Operator-Maintainer

25U Signal Support Systems Specialist

25V Combat Documentation/Production Specialist

MAJ Radlinski also mentions that most signal Soldiers have to obtain Secret or Top Secret clearances, which is valuable when seeking civilian employment at certain companies, especially Federal Government contractors.

Just as valuable, he says, are the rewards of a part-time commitment in the Guard. “The Guard is a unique organization. You’re not only called upon for your country, but you’re also called upon to help your neighbors, your friends, and your family. That’s very rewarding.”

After you’ve explored our jobs board and decided which signal battalion MOS you’d like to pursue, contact a recruiter to learn about all the other great benefits the Guard offers, like money for college, affordable healthcare, and more.

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Pushing the Boundaries Every Chance She Gets

SSG Sonia Buchanan

Staff Sgt. Sonia Buchanan, a Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldier who has already deployed with Special Forces in Afghanistan, is now one of the first female Soldiers in the 1st Squadron, 105th Cavalry Regiment. (Wisconsin National Guard photo by Capt. Joe Trovato)

Seven years ago at age 35, SSG Sonia Buchanan joined the Wisconsin Army National Guard with her sights set on personal and professional growth. She’s shattered that goal ever since, breaking one glass ceiling after another.

The shattering part begins in 2010, when the Army put out a memo that it was looking for the very first female volunteers to deploy with the Army Rangers and Special Forces to Afghanistan as part of a Cultural Support Team. SSG Buchanan immediately recognized the chance to serve alongside two of the most respected units in the military.

“They’re elite,” she explains. “They wrote the handbook on unconventional warfare. And in today’s modern battlefield, we just don’t fight wars how we used to fight them. They’re accomplished on a smarter level.”

The job of a Cultural Support Team is to engage with the locals, provide assistance (like medical care), and build rapport that can help to gain intelligence.

Along with two months of training in Afghan culture and the Dari and Pashto languages came some advice from her trainers about what to expect when integrating with the all-male Rangers and Special Forces. She and her classmates were told to anticipate more of an alpha male environment rather than a warm welcome.

What SSG Buchanan found instead from the men was respect. They understood what women would be able to accomplish on a mission through the relationships they could form with Afghan women.

“We could access a part of the population that they couldn’t. There’s more information to gain when you send out all your resources.”

Since returning from Afghanistan, SSG Buchanan has happily pursued additional roles within the Guard that previously were not open to women.

For instance, she served as a drill sergeant in 2014, and just this spring she became one of the first female Soldiers to serve with the 1st Squadron, 105th Cavalry Regiment. For now, she is the only female in her Unit, but two more women Soldiers will be in place by early next year.

SSG Buchanan also looks forward to trading in her current military occupational specialty (MOS) in Human Resources for 19D Cavalry Scout, when this particular combat job opens up to women.

“They’re the section that goes out in front of everybody else, so they’re leading the way.”

Also on the list: Completing the grueling Army Rangers physical assessment (this test just opened up to women in 2015), as well as becoming a Command Sergeant Major.

SSG Buchanan envisions a day when men and women in the military are given equal consideration in any job, but she also understands that combat roles aren’t for everyone. “Not every woman wants to be gung-ho, which is great, because we need to cover all bases and areas in the Army.”

That said, you never know what might be lying just beneath the surface. SSG Buchanan explains she wasn’t always quite so gung-ho herself. In fact, she describes her personality before joining the Guard as passive, having spent 17 years as a homeschooling, stay-at-home mom until she and her husband split.

Today, she believes she’s set a good example for her son and daughter, both teenagers, because she wants them to see all the things they can attain. “They’ve seen both sides of me. I think that they have a really good overall view of the capabilities of a mom and a female.”

SSG Buchanan says her journey over the last few years has opened her eyes to what women in the military are able to accomplish.

“For the females who are physically strong and mentally capable, I would encourage anybody any time to go for it and keep pushing the boundaries,” she says. “It’s only because women in the past have kept pushing and pushing for integration that now it is happening.”

If you’re ready to push your own boundaries, explore the Army National Guard’s more than 200 career paths on our jobs board, learn about our great benefits like money for college, and contact a recruiter today.

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