COLUMBIA, S.C. – Two South
Carolina Army National Guard members volunteered to deliver needed
supplies to Bahamian victims of Hurricane Dorian in five flights on a small
Carolina Army National Guard
Second Lieutenant (2LT) Sam Evans, 1-118th Infantry Battalion, Bravo Company
platoon leader, and 2LT William “Cole” Sanford Jr., Charlie Company, 1-151st
Attack Reconnaissance Battalion platoon leader, found the opportunity to volunteer via
an online forum from a group that had organized the collection of supplies but
needed pilots and planes to fly them to the Bahamas.
“I reached out to get more
details, and asked Sanford if he was interested in making the relief trips with
me, to which he said yes,” says 2LT Evans.
Hurricane Dorian inflicted
heavy damage on the Bahamas Aug. 24, 2019, killing at least 50 people and
leaving about 70,000 people homeless.
2LT Evans, a graduate of
Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and
ROTC cadet, obtained his private
pilot license before commissioning and then returned to South Carolina. 2LT
Sanford, a graduate of Wofford College in South Carolina and an ROTC cadet, earned
his private pilot license for a single-engine, land, and fixed-wing aircraft
while attending school.
The two flew back and forth
from South Florida to the Bahamas five times in September on a two-seat
single-engine prop 1943 Luscombe Silvaire, delivering more than 500 pounds of
toiletries, tents, and Meals Ready to Eat (MREs).
“We were limited on space and
weight,” says 2LT Evans, who is pursuing a commercial pilot license. “We could
take about 100 pounds of supplies each trip and would pack aid into every space
“At the end of the day, what
we did was small,” says 2LT Sanford. “But it felt good that the toiletries and
other things that we brought could be helping someone. It may just have been a
pick-me-up for someone who had just lost their house.”
National Guard gives Soldiers like 2LTs Sanford and Evans the opportunity to
pursue civilian careers, education, and other training while serving
part-time in their home State, so there is time to further your career
while staying close to home.
earn benefits to help pay for education and
expenses while serving their country and their community.
Kansas – No one wants bad things to happen, especially in their communities.
However, for two Kansas
Army National Guard members, the devastation of recent floods was a rejuvenating
rains and thunderstorms hit Kansas in late May, and flooding became an imminent
danger for several communities downstream from levees and dams that were close
to overflowing. With the addition of a destructive tornado that hit Douglas and
Leavenworth counties, the emergency in Kansas escalated to disastrous
of the Kansas Army National Guard were asked to help. One of them was Staff Sergeant
(SSG) Michael Eicher of the 891st Forward Support Company, who had no problem
why I signed up to be in the National Guard,” SSG Eicher says, “to help people.”
not a Kansas native, his active duty service led him to the State when he was
stationed at Fort Riley in 1993. It was not long after he met his wife that he
decided to leave the military to raise a family.
9/11 happened,” he says. “My wife looked at me one day and said, ‘You miss it,
don’t you?’ I said ‘Yeah, big time,’ and she said, ‘You do what you (have) to
Eicher restarted his military career by enlisting in the Kansas Army National
Guard. However, as he closed in on completing 20 years of service, he had it in
his mind to finally retire from military life.
get to his 20 years, SSG Eicher would have to extend his enlistment another
year. His fellow Soldiers were trying to convince him to sign up for another
six, so he joked with his wife that he would do it. She gave him a response
that he wasn’t expecting: “At least you finally made up your mind.”
that month, the flooding began, and SSG Eicher was called to State active duty,
where he immediately started running missions to deliver supplies to multiple
communities in southeast Kansas. The tasks included dropping off pallets of
water and other supplies for water rescue.
those missions, he and his team went back to home base in Iola, where they
received their next mission to deliver 18 pallets of water to Coffeyville – a town
that was preparing for flooding if the Verdigris River levee should break.
we were done with the water, we got the word to go and start helping with the
sandbags. We did that well into the night,” he explains.
finally getting some rest when other Soldiers came to relieve them at around 3
a.m., SSG Eicher and the rest of the Guard members finished helping the
members with the sandbagging late that next afternoon.
whole experience reminded him of why he joined the Army National Guard in the first place, and
he began reconsidering his decision to retire. After completing his final
mission to Valley Falls, he told his commander he would re-enlist in the Guard.
been thinking about it for a while, but just helping others was what made me
decide,” SSG Eicher says. “I was there in the fire station in Valley Falls and
something clicked in my mind that said, ‘Hey, what are you doing? You love
this! Why are you getting out?’”
Eicher wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Lawrence resident Specialist
(SPC) Russell O’Neill of the 891st Forward Support Company, also realized it
was not quite time to let go.
O’Neill was coming to the end of his first enlistment and had already decided
to conclude his service at the end of his contract because he felt like he was
doing less and less of the job he signed up to do.
then disaster struck south of Lawrence when a tornado plowed through on its way
toward Kansas City.
O’Neill, who works for a landscaping company in Lawrence, says several of the
houses he worked on were damaged. Several of his family and friends who lived
in the vicinity of Linwood, Kansas, were affected and had damage to their
next weekend, SPC O’Neill would get the chance to help. One of the vehicles
used to deliver supplies broke down while his unit was drilling. His experience
working on those trucks made him the go-to guy to fix it.
these events were not the only reasons SPC O’Neill decided to stay in, they
helped him confirm he needed to continue his service. He also realized the benefits he would get for his three
children would outweigh the little time he would be away. The biggest reason,
however, was the realization that he didn’t want to let go of the camaraderie
he’s found while serving in the Army National Guard.
feel that with my fellow Soldiers it is a brotherhood that I haven’t had since
high school. The weekend drills, I get to go be around a bunch of guys that I
enjoy being around, and I’ve had a lot of them call me throughout my hardships
and ask how I’m doing.”
the end of the June drill, SSG Eicher and SPC O’Neill had reenlisted, standing
on pallets of water to be delivered for the flooding.
the State active duty stuff comes around and people need your help, that is
what we are here for,” says SSG Eicher. “If you are thinking about retiring and
you’re thinking about getting out, think about all these things that could
“Who knew that the
flooding was going to take place? Nobody – and that’s why you joined in the
If you’re passionate about giving back to your community, join the Army National Guard where you can serve part-time in your home State, and be the one your neighbors look to in times of need. With hands-on training in over 130 career fields including ground forces, logistics, and transportation, you can be part of a team that’s prepared to handle anything. Visit the job board to browse open opportunities today.
From an original article by the 105th Mobile Public Affairs
Detachment, Kansas National Guard, which appeared in the news section of
NationalGuard.mil in June 2019.
Out of the approximately 130 jobs you can do in the Army National Guard, there’s a list of a dozen or so of these jobs in every State that is offering new enlistees a $20,000 bonus right now.
Staff Sergeant (SSG) Phillip Wongsing, a recruiter for the North Carolina Army National Guard, is quick to clear up any misconceptions that the military occupational specialties (MOSs) that make the list are jobs that no one wants to do.
“You get everything from plumbing to aviation to infantry to armor,” he says. “These are really good jobs – a variety of jobs in different career fields.”
The list varies from State to State and changes on a quarterly basis.
“It’s based on what the State needs at the moment to fill in positions, so we don’t have critical vulnerabilities within our organization,” says SSG Wongsing.
For example, as of this month in North Carolina, bonuses are available for 17 jobs this quarter. Here are just a few examples to demonstrate the variety:
The bonus is tied to a score of at least 50 on the ASVAB and to a 6-year enlistment in the Army National Guard, says SSG Wongsing. And, by the way, that’s six years of part-time service – as little as one weekend a month for drill and two weeks in the summer for annual training.
Here’s how the bonus works: Soldiers receive half the money when they successfully complete Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training. On their third-year anniversary they receive another quarter of the bonus. The final quarter arrives for their fifth anniversary.
But even if the MOS you want doesn’t come with a bonus, there are other financial incentives to think about. One is money for college. Because Army National Guard Soldiers have a dual mission to serve the State and the Nation, Soldiers can take advantage of both State and federal tuition assistance. SSG Wongsing says the North Carolina Army National Guard offers:
$4,500 a year for in-State college tuition reimbursement
$384 a month for the GI Bill (paid directly to the Soldier for expenses)
$350 a month for the GI Bill Kicker (with a minimum ASVAB score of 50)
Affordable health insurance offered through the Guard is another way to save money. At $42 a month for medical and about $11 a month for dental, SSG Wongsing estimates that single North Carolina Guard Soldiers are paying about a quarter of what their civilian counterparts do.
Of course, money isn’t everything. Doing a job you like has its own rewards.
One of SSG Wongsing’s recent recruits may not have gotten a $20,000 bonus for enlisting as an 15Q Air Traffic Control Operator, but by the time he graduates college, he’ll have five years of paid training and experience in his field, which applies directly to a civilian career.
There are other motivations to serve in the Guard, too.
“If you have a heart for humanitarian work and adventure, then the National Guard is the place to be,” says SSG Wongsing, who helped distribute supplies to residents displaced by two hurricanes that hit North Carolina in 2018. The Guard also helped with evacuations, water rescues and storm clean up.
“You directly have a hand in the rehabilitation of your community and helping people in a time of stress,” he says.
If you’re into travel, there are opportunities to attend trainings in other States or countries. The North Carolina Guard, for example, is partnered with Botswana and Moldova through the State Partnership Program.
There’s also some friendly competition among the ranks. SSG Wongsing’s former armor company for example, won the Sullivan Cup in 2016, competing against the Marines and other Army units for the best tank crew, and then went on to finish third in an international competition. Last year, the New York Army National Guard sent athletes to the Winter Olympics, and then, there’s the annual Best Warrior Competition, a test of a Soldier’s knowledge and physical endurance.
And while most Soldiers serve part-time and have civilian jobs or go to school, there are also full-time jobs available in the Guard.
“The Guard is what you make of it,” says SSG Wongsing. “If you want to go to school full-time, and you still want to serve your community, have self-sovereignty in your life, and serve something bigger than yourself, the National Guard is a great opportunity to have two different lifestyles – the civilian and military that supplement each other.”