Soldier Praises Guard for Benefits and Opportunities

The decision to join the military can be based on a number of factors – for some, the benefits alone seem worth it, while others feel it’s their duty to serve their country. For Specialist (SPC) Sychelle Gonsalves, it was a combination of both that influenced her to join the Army National Guard.

“At the time, I was 20 and I wanted to stay in Alaska,” she recalls. “The recruiter told me that they’d send me to basic training, and I’d only be there for a couple of months. Then I’d come back to Alaska and serve part-time.”

SPC Sychelle Gonsalves is a 31B Military Police Officer in the Alaska Army National Guard, stationed at Fort Greely with the 49th Missile Defense Battalion.

SPC Gonsalves was a bank teller at the time she enlisted. Being able to serve part-time while continuing to work in her civilian career was one of the main benefits that drew her to Guard service – the education benefits were an added bonus. She’s currently utilizing the Guard’s tuition assistance to pursue a degree in logistics.

In 2016, SPC Gonsalves began her Guard career as a 92Y Unit Supply Specialist as part of a Military Police unit in Anchorage. Logistics is her passion, but once she heard about the wealth of opportunities at Fort Greely, she reclassed into a new MOS so she could relocate. Now serving full-time as 31B Military Police, she’s stationed at Fort Greely with the 49th Missile Defense Battalion.

SPC Gonsalves says that enlisting in the Army National Guard has enhanced her interpersonal skills, decision-making abilities, and problem-solving techniques, as well as helped her discover her strengths and weaknesses, so much so that she competed in the 2019 Army National Guard Best Warrior Competition.

When she was approached to compete, she didn’t know anything about the competition and was nervous – but she participated anyway to see how far she could push herself.

“I just wanted to compete,” she says.

SPC Gonsalves first competed in the Battalion Best Warrior Competition, which is the local-level event in July of 2018. She took the title and went on to compete in the State-level competition, taking home the victory for that event as well.

She then went on to represent the State alongside one of her colleagues in the regional competition this past spring. While she didn’t win, her ability to excel against her competitors earned her Soldier of the Year (Battalion and State), Service Person of the Year from the Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA), and Missile Defender of the Year (Missile Defense Alliance Advocacy).

She was the first female to win Soldier of the Year in the Alaska Army National Guard.

SPC Gonsalves is a proud Guard Soldier who finds gratification in her everyday routine. Whether she’s called to maintain traffic control points, assist with natural disaster relief, or aid other parts of the country, she’s always prepared and ready to fulfill the mission at hand, alongside a team of 300 Soldiers.

“You are part of a team of 300 that protects 300 million,” she says proudly.

SPC Gonsalves has sound advice for those interested in joining the Army National Guard: “Consider what line of job you’d like to do and go for it! Know that there are a lot of opportunities in the Guard, and the Guard will not let you down.”

If you’re looking for your dream job with benefits like education assistance, insurance, and the ability to serve close to home, explore available opportunities in the Army National Guard today. Whether you’re into technology, logistics, or ground forces careers, you’re bound to find the one that’s right for you. Browse the job board and contact a recruiter to learn how you can make a difference in your country and your community.

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The West Point Way

After taking a little R&R for the holidays, On Your Guard is back online and excited about the new year. To kick off 2014, we begin with an amazing story of a young Alaskan Soldier who was able to turn his life around, thanks to the National Guard.

SPC David Huff

SPC David Huff

Specialist David Huff has accomplished more than he ever expected in the past 3½ years. He completed his studies at the Alaska Military Youth Academy ChalleNGe Program. He enlisted in the Alaska Army National Guard. And in July, Huff was attending the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School after getting accepted to enroll at West Point, one of the Nation’s most prestigious institutions.

Not bad for someone who dropped out of high school after his freshman year. But thanks to the National Guard, Huff found hope and then his future.

“For me to even have the opportunity to go to the prep school is a blessing in and of itself,” says Huff, 21, a 25U Signal Support Systems Specialist for the 297th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade. “Through all this, I’ve learned that you really can’t go anywhere unless you have a goal in life.”

It took time for that lesson to take hold. At the end of his freshman year of high school, Huff got into an altercation with an upperclassman that led to a 45-day suspension. Because of that incident, his entire second semester didn’t count. Huff was left six credits behind with a diminishing grade point average. Feeling discouraged, he dropped out with an attitude problem, he says.

“I didn’t have a goal,” he says. “My biggest goal was just getting a diploma. I knew in this world that you couldn’t really do anything without a high school diploma. So that was my biggest goal. But there were lots of times where I did want to give up. I thought, ‘Geez, what do I do?’”

Determined to get his diploma, Huff joined the Alaska Military Youth Academy (AMYA) ChalleNGe Program, which helps Alaska’s at-risk young people graduate with the skills to succeed as adults. Huff says he excelled in the program but still left there immature.

“I got angry really easily and let opportunities that I could have had go by the wayside,” he says.

Huff decided to turn to the Army National Guard. Two months after he talked to a Recruiter, Huff enlisted in the Alaska Guard and took advantage of another great opportunity — the National Guard Patriot Academy. Although the program closed in January, the academy offered qualified recruits the opportunity to finish high school and earn college credit while giving back to the community.

A Patriot Academy instructor and additional role model got him to refocus on a diploma, plus look at options beyond that, says Brigadier General Mike Bridges, commander of the Alaska Army National Guard. One of those other options was the potential to receive a National Guard nomination to West Point from the Alaska Army Guard.

With no knowledge of West Point, Huff began researching the academy. The school has educated, trained, and inspired many of the Army’s greatest leaders throughout the past 200 years, such as Dwight D. Eisenhower, George S. Patton, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, and Norman Schwarzkopf.

“To see the people who have actually gone to West Point and to see the things they have done, that’s a goal worth aiming for,” Huff says. “The experience that you get there, the different people that influence you, it’s second to none.”

With thousands of students applying to West Point each year, it is an exceptional honor being accepted for admission. After being denied admission twice, Huff was admitted into the West Point Preparatory School on his third attempt.

“I was taking college English, trigonometry, and chemistry, and they saw I was doing well,” Huff says. “I’m extremely grateful they recognized the academic and leadership potential in me because usually when they say ‘no’ the first time, it’s stays ‘no.’”

With roots in the Alaska Army National Guard, Huff will be able to share what he’s learned with Guard comrades and give even more to the country.

“The Alaska Army National Guard is sharing this young man and his potential with the Nation through service,” Bridges says. “He is succeeding in a great way, which makes us very proud.”

Huff has a growing list of people whom he credits for his success, but there are two who stand out: his father, Darryl Huff, and General (Ret.) Colin Powell. “Apart from God, I couldn’t have made it this far without my dad,” Huff says. “My dad always knew I could do better and pushed me.”

About Powell, Huff says he was inspired after reading his book My American Journey while attending the AMYA. Huff’s life mantra came from the book: “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”

“I changed my mindset and my history of getting in trouble into something positive,” Huff says. “You get the right mindset, you get hungry, and you go after what you want.”

Story and photo courtesy of GX magazine. GX magazine is an official publication of the Army National Guard.

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