On Your Guard Flashback: A Spotlight on Engineering

In September 2013, On Your Guard ran the following Spotlight on Engineering. Since we’ve been talking about STEM careers this summer, with engineering the focus this month, we thought we’d flashback and repost. The info is still relevant and focuses on the more surprising aspects of engineering in the Army National Guard. Be sure to click the links to read a more detailed description for each military occupational specialty and to view nationwide openings on our jobs board.

Engineering in the Guard is not entirely what you might expect. Sure, there are technical engineers and geospatial engineers and mechanical engineers. But did you know the 12-series Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) also includes plumbers, electricians, concrete equipment operators, and a bunch more job titles that offer a direct correlation with civilian skilled labor trades? Surprise!

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll find by selecting “Engineer” in the Category dropdown menu of the National Guard jobs board.

12B Construction Specialist

Okay, we fibbed. Sort of. This one actually does have the word “engineer” in the real title, which reads “12B Combat Engineer – Construction and Engineering Specialist.” But, in addition to a possible civilian career in structural engineering, this MOS could also lead to jobs related to building inspection, various types of construction, and more.

In the Guard, 12B Combat Engineers design and build roadways and bridges; secure perimeters and tactical firing systems; and detect and safely neutralize mines and other dangers.

12C Bridge Crewmember

Bridge Crewmembers often work hand-in-hand with Combat Engineers on jobs that keep army vehicles moving over both wet and dry gap crossings. You get to learn the engineering principles and basic construction methods associated with building bridges, which of course has a direct correlation to working on any civilian bridge construction crew.

12D Diver

And how cool would it be to serve as a Diver in the Guard? You know you’ve always wanted to learn. Some military operations – like reconnaissance, patrol, construction, repair, demolition, and salvage – actually take place under water. So, Guard Scuba Divers work just below the surface of the water and Guard Deep Sea Divers work for long periods in depths of up to 300 feet.

You may be thinking, “Great, but diving’s just a hobby.” So not true. Oil companies, salvage companies, construction firms, police and fire rescue units, and shipping enterprises – all often require some form of underwater specialist.

12G Quarrying Specialist

If the concept of reducing a mountain to rubble sounds even cooler, then you won’t be disappointed as a Quarrying Specialist in the Guard. These Soldiers make gravel by blasting rock, putting it through two crushing stages, cleaning it in a washing station, and delivering the finished product to the project site. These skills are excellent for pursuing a civilian career with building contractors, state highway agencies, rock quarries, well drillers, and construction firms.

12K Plumber

“Pipe system engineer” is not really a euphemism when you’re talking about choosing a 12K MOS. National Guard Plumbers work on pipe systems for water, steam, and waste, as well as hydraulic and pneumatic systems. Duties include reading drawings, plans, and specifications; planning the layout of pipe systems; and installing and maintaining pipe systems and plumbing fixtures – all of which prepares you for a civilian career in commercial and residential plumbing.

12M Firefighter

Yes, firefighting is an engineering job in the Guard. Army bases have their own fire protection personnel who are responsible for protecting lives and property by controlling and helping to prevent fires in buildings and on aircraft. Just like in the civilian world, they perform firefighting and rescue operations, operate firefighting equipment and vehicles, administer first aid, and respond to hazardous material emergencies. Plus, the training and certifications are the same ones you need to be a firefighter in your community, whether it’s on a paid crew or as a local volunteer.

12R Interior Electrician

If there are “pipe system engineers” in the National Guard, it only makes sense that there’d be “wire system engineers” as well. The 12R Interior Electrician offers all the training you need to work for public utilities or commercial and residential contractors. You learn how to install and wire electrical hardware – like transformers, junction boxes, service panels, electrical boxes, switches, and circuit breakers – found in offices, repair shops, airplane hangars, and other buildings.

12V Concrete and Asphalt Equipment Crewmember

How many construction projects require concrete or asphalt? In the Guard, the answer is: a lot. (Think roads, building foundations, airfields, etc.) Learning how to produce concrete with a concrete mobile mixer, as well as operate asphalt distributors, aggregate spreaders, asphalt kettles, and paving and surfacing equipment no doubt will prepare you for a rewarding career with construction enterprises like building contractors, state highway agencies, rock quarries, well drillers, and construction firms.

12W Carpentry and Masonry Specialist

Concrete is cool, but stone, steel, and wood are all fun to work with, too. The 12W is an Engineer category MOS that prepares you for a civilian career in commercial and residential construction as a mason, carpenter, concrete finisher, drywall installer, ceiling tile installer, and more. That’s because training and duties involve general heavy carpentry, structural steel, and masonry duties, including the fabrication, erection, maintenance, and repair of rigging devices, trusses, and other structural assemblies.

Well, that’s it. That’s all the “What? That’s an Engineer MOS?” job titles we have for this week. If you’d like to learn more about one of these valuable, skill-packed careers, visit the Army National Guard jobs board and contact a recruiter today.

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Fighting Fire with Fire

Colorado West Fork Complex fire

Colorado National Guard members with the 1157th Engineer Firefighting Company drive down Colorado Highway 149 in Rio Grande National Forest during the West Fork Complex fire in a Tactical Fire Firefighting Truck, June 25, 2013. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by: Tech. Sgt. Wolfram M. Stumpf/RELEASED)

Long before SPC Ryan Benson joined the Army National Guard, he fought fires with the Colorado Bureau of Land Management Wildland Fire Program. It only seemed natural to continue doing what he loved when he became a Soldier.

“I had been fighting fires since high school,” he says. “When I joined the Guard, it was the natural thing to do.”

The Grand Junction, Colo., native has since fought three extreme wildfires as a 12M Firefighter with the 1157 Combat Firefighters Unit. He also volunteers as a fireman in his hometown and studies mechanical engineering at Colorado Mesa University. To say that his schedule is packed is an understatement.

When his unit deployed to the Black Forest wildfire near Colorado Springs earlier this year, he and his fellow Soldiers fought the blaze for nine straight days. The fire had spread over 14,280 acres and destroyed 511 homes.

SPC Benson’s unit was given two days off to rest, but another fire, this one near Wolf Creek Pass, badly needed additional resources. Called the West Fork Complex fire, it was comprised of three smaller fires that had merged into one, eventually covering 75,150 acres. The unit’s two-day reprieve was cut to one, and the group reported to duty for its second major wildfire in as many days.

Although his unit is trained to battle structure fires, aircraft fires, and wildland fires, the wildland fires have been demanding the most attention. Colorado is in its fourth year of drought or near-drought conditions. The weather has been so dry, one local newscaster quipped, “The weeds won’t even grow.”

SPC Benson and his crew do whatever is required to help local authorities battle the blazes. Special equipment helps. The Guard’s tactical firefighting trucks differ from the familiar red variety we see in civilian fire departments.

“They’re off-road engines that carry a lot of water to places where others can’t go,” he says.

The firefighting mission includes not only battling blazes but also saving homes and lives whenever possible.

“We get to the homes and clear out anything that’s easily flammable, like propane tanks,” he says. “Or we cut away trees close to the home, or use water or foam around the house to stop the fire.”

In some circumstances, the unit will do a controlled burn, which is literally fighting fire with fire. The firefighters ignite a carefully planned and highly controlled fire to engulf trees and brush, creating a line that a wildfire cannot cross because the fuel (the trees and brush) is gone.

When SPC Benson isn’t fighting fires with the Guard or his local volunteer department, he’s studying for his degree in mechanical engineering and using the Guard’s education benefits to help pay the bills.

In fact, SPC Benson was a college student before he was a Soldier. After a short time at college, he started to see the bills grow.

“I realized I had a lot of student loans and I needed a way to repay them,” he says.

The Guard sounded like an ideal move, especially since he knew he could continue his love of firefighting as an Army National Guard Firefighter.

He’s now close to finishing his bachelor’s degree and thinking about what’s next. It could include an advanced degree in biomedical engineering, and chances are good it will include more years with the National Guard.

“My hometown is a small town. The Guard has given me the opportunity to work with people from all over. It’s also given me leadership opportunities and great opportunities to learn.”

Whether you already have a skill that you’d like to bring to the Guard or you’re looking for a way to reduce the cost of college, visit the Army National Guard jobs board and contact a Recruiter today.

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A Soldier with a Master Plan

Can’t see the forest for the trees. Missing the big picture. Needs a bird’s-eye view.

There are plenty of idioms and clichés for people who become so overwhelmed by details that they can’t figure out a master plan. But those phrases will never be used to describe Staff Sergeant (SSG) Andrew Barden.

Staff Sergeant Andrew Barden

Staff Sergeant Andrew Barden

That’s because SSG Barden is a rare and valuable breed: a details guy with 20/20 big-picture vision. It also helps that he has the drive, resilience, and determination it takes to transform his vision – for his career, for his patients, and for emergency situations – from master plan to reality.

Today, SSG Barden is a 68W Health Care Specialist (medic) for the Iowa Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 194th Field Artillery Regiment, Fort Dodge. His original Guard training as a 12M Firefighter also prepared him for his current civilian career. He’s a state employee firefighter for the 132nd Fighter Wing Fire Department, serving both the Des Moines International Airport and the Iowa Air National Guard to protect F-16s, passenger aircraft, and all facilities situated on the 2,600-acre airfield. And, in all his spare time, SSG Barden has been working toward – and this month will receive – a bachelor’s degree in Emergency and Disaster Management with an emphasis in Fire Science (plus, he’s already enrolled to begin a master’s program in the same subject this fall).

So, what can we learn from SSG Barden? How does one absorb all the details required to be a Soldier, a medic, a firefighter, and an emergency/disaster management specialist, and then use that knowledge to assess extreme circumstances, determine a master plan, and implement it – often in a matter of minutes?

The answer is training, and, according to SSG Barden, not just any training: “I wouldn’t have my career without the training I’ve received through the National Guard. Plus, as a Guardsman, the State of Iowa provided me with 100 percent tuition assistance.”

But let’s not forget about those underlying personal qualities: drive, resilience, and determination. They’re pretty important, too. To see why, we have to rewind 10 years and start SSG Barden’s story from the beginning.


Chapter one (year one) starts with “drive.”

“I was going to be a computer draftsman, and then I volunteered at a local fire department. I thought, ‘This is what I want to do.’ So, I talked to my chief who happened to also be a firefighter in the Guard. I realized at 18 years old that I could join the military and pursue my dream of being a firefighter, all on one ticket.”

At first, the National Guard Recruiter told SSG Barden that he couldn’t guarantee an opening to train for the firefighter military occupation specialty (MOS). “So I said, ‘Call back when you can.’”

He did, pretty quickly actually, and after Basic Training, SSG Barden headed to Advanced Individual Training (AIT) where he earned five certifications – First Responder, Firefighter 1 and 2, Hazmat Operations, and Airport Fire – in a matter of four months.

“In the civilian world, that would have cost me, or my fire department, thousands of dollars and would normally take years to do.”


Chapter two of SSG Barden’s story spans six years and is all about “resilience.” His dream civilian job as a paid firefighter was not materializing, and his Iowa Guard firefighting unit, the 767th Engineer Team, was traded to another State. He needed to pick another MOS after all. Of course, SSG Barden’s big-picture thinking was at work when he selected Health Care Specialist and then headed to four more months of AIT, where he earned a another slew of certifications.

A year later, SSG Barden deployed to Taji, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he was in charge of a team of medics responsible for the care of 1,200 detainees in accordance with Geneva Convention and International Red Cross regulations. While there, his ability to carry out a master plan translated into exceptional, humanitarian care that included routine visits, immunizations, flu shots, hygiene education, and more.

“We were required to see 10 percent of the population daily, but we organized it so we actually saw 20 percent daily.”


The past three years and the most recent chapter in SSG Barden’s story is all about “determination” – to finally get that dream firefighting job and to continue laying the foundation needed for a future (read: master plan) in emergency and disaster management.

After returning from Iraq, he applied to his present position with the 132nd not once, but twice, to get his foot in the door. His six-month probationary period consisted of – yes, you guessed it – more training, and lots of it. After all, they don’t let just anybody operate aircraft rescue fire trucks that can dump 1,500 gallons of water in a little over a minute; or a high-tech rapid intervention vehicle that delivers water droplets to absorb heat and suppress fire; or a technical rescue truck with tons of equipment for rope rescue, trench rescue, vehicle extraction and stabilization; or a special operations trailer that carries search-and-rescue equipment, as well as hazmat equipment for gas detection, monitoring, and decontamination.

So, what’s SSG Barden’s master plan for chapter four?

“I’m happy where I am right now. But someday I want to be in charge of overall response to large-scale emergencies, perhaps with FEMA. And as for the Guard, I’ll stay a medic forever, but I’m open to State response or operations-level opportunities.”

If you have a master plan like SSG Barden, the National Guard can transform your vision into reality. Check out the National Guard jobs board and contact your Army National Guard Recruiter today.

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