Soldier’s Volunteer Service Embodies ‘Spirit of the National Guard’

OLYMPIA, Wash. – A service member is often born with a strong desire to help others. Whether it’s coaching a child’s sports team, cleaning up the neighborhood, or any number of other community activities, public service is frequently a common trait of those serving in the military, specifically the Army National Guard.

Sergeant First Class (SFC) Nick Van Kirk, a logistics and decontamination Non-commissioned Officer with the Washington Army National Guard’s 10th Civil Support Team (CST), wanted to give back to his community in a different way.

SFC Nick Van Kirk, a logistics and decontamination Non-commissioned Officer with the 10th Civil Support Team and volunteer firefighter with South Bay Fire Department, talks with his two commanders before a ceremony on Oct. 10, 2019, in Olympia, Washington. (Photo by Joseph Siemandel).

Growing up in the South Bay community of Olympia, Washington, SFC Van Kirk lived down the street from the South Bay Fire Department.

“I had wanted to be a volunteer firefighter for a while, giving back to the community I grew up in,” he recalls. “Being a full-time active Guard member, I wasn’t sure if I would have that chance.”

He got his chance three years ago when his Unit switched from a five-day workweek to a four-day, 10-hour-a-day schedule.

“The schedule switch gave me the opportunity to go for it, and the leadership with the Civil Support Team supported it.”

Becoming a firefighter and emergency medical technician (EMT) takes time and requires the individual to volunteer a certain number of hours to earn required certifications. However, being a full-time member of the 10th Civil Support Team and responding at a moment’s notice to support local law enforcement and first responders also requires a lot of time and energy.

“The training for both firefighting and EMT is time-consuming,” says SFC Van Kirk. “My command supported everything about me volunteering with South Bay.”

Volunteering with South Bay hasn’t hindered SFC Van Kirk’s work at the CST.

“He probably volunteers 40-50 hours a month with the fire department,” says CST First Sergeant (1SG) Paul Gautreaux. “He never misses a day of work with us though. He is even there on Mondays getting our folks and gear ready for the week ahead.”

This past Fourth of July, SFC Van Kirk put his training, both with the fire department and the CST, to use during a critical situation. That morning, he and other members of the South Bay team responded to a call involving a driver missing a turn and hitting two small children who were playing on the shoreline.

“We got to the scene first and the two children were injured pretty bad, so we immediately called for additional EMTs, contacted the hospitals, and got everything organized quickly,” he explains, adding the two children were rushed to a local hospital at the time, and “are doing great today.”

SFC Van Kirk received praise from his station leadership for his work.

“Nick was our only volunteer who stayed on for the additional shift,” says John Clemons, medical service officer with the South Bay Fire Department. “He organized the sub-units to the incident and helped save the lives of two little ones. He is a real asset to our station.”

The dedicated Soldier is also an asset to the CST. “He [SFC Van Kirk] is like so many in the organization,” says Major (MAJ) Wes Watson, commander of the CST. “They are the quiet professionals, volunteering their own time to help others. It’s just the spirit of the National Guard.”

Serving the community is one of the many values of the Army National Guard. By serving part-time, Guard Soldiers are given the flexibility and opportunity to pursue their passions, whether it’s volunteering at home, getting a degree, or working a civilian job. With careers in fields like engineering, medicine, and police and protection, there’s no limit to success in the National Guard. To explore available opportunities, browse the job board or contact a recruiter to learn more!

From an original article by CPT Joseph Siemandel, Washington Army National Guard, which appeared in the news section of in November 2019.

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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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