Spotlight on: Part-time Service

The Balancing Act Between Citizen and Soldier

Established in 1636, the National Guard is the country’s oldest military branch and has fought in every major conflict in American history. Soldiers of the Army National Guard have always been citizens who served as the Nation’s first line of defense when duty called. Fast-forward to today and it’s the same: Everyone who becomes a Citizen-Soldier® still must find that balance between day-to-day life and military obligations.

Sergeant Brian Calhoun attends a South Carolina Army National Guard Warrior Leadership Course at McCrady Training Center in Eastover, SC, on April 7, 2015. (Photo by Courtesy Photo)

Sergeant Brian Calhoun attends a South Carolina Army National Guard Warrior Leadership Course at McCrady Training Center in Eastover, SC, on April 7, 2015. (Photo by Courtesy Photo)

Like Sergeant Brian Calhoun. Currently a photojournalist in the 108th Public Affairs Detachment, South Carolina National Guard, he has learned to master this balancing act for years.

“I initially enlisted in the South Carolina National Guard when I was a senior in high school,” said Calhoun. “I would go off and train on drill weeks, which made my senior year experience much different than my classmates’.”

Calhoun joined an Air Defense Artillery (ADA) unit that was brand new at the time and hadn’t even fielded its equipment yet. He trained to become an Air Defense Artillery Command and Control System Operator-Repairer and was assigned to Headquarters Battalion 1/263 ADA. When the unit was deactivated seven years later, Calhoun was at the end of his enlistment and decided to leave the National Guard.

“When my original unit deactivated, it was a good time for me to take a break from military service,” said Calhoun. “I had just completed mortuary college and was beginning my professional career as a funeral director. My new job would require me to work weekends, and I didn’t want weekend drill or annual training to interfere, so I decided to take a short break.”

Calhoun’s “short” break ended up lasting 16 years. “I never intended to be away from the Guard for that amount of time, and I always missed it. I think once you become a Soldier you never stop. A part of me was missing, and I wanted to get back in the Guard to fill that huge hole.”

When he decided to re-enlist in 2010, Calhoun turned to the Internet to find the perfect military occupational specialty (MOS) for himself. “I wanted my new MOS to be more like a hobby for me. I also wanted my new military skill to benefit my employer. When I found public affairs and photojournalism, I was surprised. I didn’t know the Army had this, and I was certain the South Carolina National Guard didn’t have this – or so I thought. I started making phone calls and the rest is history.”

Calhoun said he knew right away that being a public affairs professional skilled in writing, public speaking, photography, print layout and design, and managing social media would be an asset to his employer.

“Not only am I able to serve my Community, my State, and our Nation as a public affairs specialist, I am able to provide these same skills to my company and the families that we serve here in Charleston.

“I am very fortunate to work for a company that has embraced my desire to serve my country,” he added. “They have never hesitated when I have asked for time away to attend training or to answer the call.”

Like earlier this year when Calhoun attended and graduated from Warrior Leader Course (WLC) at McCrady Training Center in Eastover, SC. WLC is the initial leadership course for noncommissioned officers. During the month-long course, Specialists and Corporals prepare for the rank of Sergeant by learning skills to lead smaller groups of Soldiers.

“I knew my class would be full of young Specialists, or newly minted Sergeants, so I could not compare myself to them physically,” said Calhoun who is 43 years old. “But I went into the course and gave it 100 percent.”

As it turned out, Calhoun believes being older actually gave him an advantage.

“When it came to preparing a brief, giving a block of instruction, or being graded on leadership, I always received the highest marks because of my confidence. I believe my age and experience led to those qualities.”

On top of holding down a steady job, Calhoun also has a wife and two children. His family had as much to do with his re-enlistment as did his own personal desire to be back in uniform.

“I wanted my kids to witness, first-hand, me sacrificing time away from home for the benefit of the greater good. I wanted them to know that the benefits we have as Americans are not free and do not come to them without a cost.”

The National Guard responds locally to natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, forest fires, search and rescue operations, and more. At the same time, the National Guard has a Federal mission to maintain well-trained units available for mobilization during war or national emergencies.

“There is no doubt that being a Soldier benefits me every day. It gives me pride and confidence as a person, and it reminds me that I am a part of something that is much bigger than myself.”


If you think the Citizen-Soldier balancing act can benefit you the way it does SGT Calhoun, learn more about the National Guard by visiting our jobs board and contacting a recruiter today.

Original story by MAJ Jamie Delk was published in the news section of on Aug. 7, 2015.


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Guard Spotlight: Florida & Wisconsin

Elite Soldiers Earn Pathfinder Badge

Capt. Raymond Nagley, right, of the Florida Army National Guard's 254th Transportation Battalion, participates in a recon mission, one of the field training exercises held during the Pathfinder Course at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, Fla. (Photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa)

Capt. Raymond Nagley, right, of the Florida Army National Guard's 254th Transportation Battalion, participates in a recon mission, one of the field training exercises held during the Pathfinder Course at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, Fla. (Photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa)

National Guard Soldiers from Florida and Wisconsin completed a rigorous two-week specialized course in north-central Florida recently, earning the right to wear the coveted U.S. Army Pathfinder Badge.

Under the guidance of instructors from the Army National Guard Warrior Training Center, 49 Soldiers from the two States graduated from the Pathfinder course at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center in late September. The intense course mirrors the Pathfinder training for active-duty Soldiers, and enables the graduates to establish safe landing zones for aircraft, paratroopers, and air assault units.

First Sgt. Jessie Parsons of the Warrior Training Center said the course is specially designed into a two-week block so Army National Guard Soldiers can attend the course in lieu of their annual training. Parsons and seven other instructors challenged their students to learn all aspects of landing zone operations — from supporting a helicopter sling load mission to setting up navigational aids for incoming aircraft.

“The job of the Pathfinder is to be the technical advisor to the ground-unit commander on multiple operations — sling load operations, drop zone operations, troop movement, air assault planning, air assault insertions, and even aerial resupply,” Parsons explained.

The course started in early September with 65 officers and enlisted Soldiers; however, nearly 25 percent of the students were unable to keep up with the rigorous and demanding academic expectations. Parsons said that a 75 percent graduation rate is actually pretty high for the Pathfinder school.

“This is one of the most academically challenging courses that a lot of these students will ever take,” Parsons said, explaining that the Pathfinder Soldiers are expected to memorize and comprehend large amounts of information in a short time. Precise arithmetic skills and attention to detail are required before a Soldier can graduate and pin on the flaming winged-torch worn by qualified Pathfinders.

Outside of the classroom, the Pathfinder students participated in a final field training exercise with Florida Army National Guard aviators. They completed a variety of missions throughout the 73,000-acre post using CH-47 Chinook and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. For one mission, the Soldiers were airlifted by teams to Camp Blanding’s north post, where they set up an actual Ground Marked Release System (GMRS) drop zone using signaling panels. After the drop zone was established, a UH-60 Black Hawk dropped a supply bundle by parachute into the area designated by the ground teams.

Pathfinder student Capt. Jonathon Bruister, who serves as commander of the Florida Army National Guard’s 221st Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit, explained that the practical exercises during the final week were a welcomed relief from the academic aspect of the course.

“This has been very difficult. All of the expectations that we were told coming into the course definitely hold true,” Bruister said. “It has been mentally exhausting and frustrating, but it is very rewarding.”

First Lt. Justin Hofmann of the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 257th Brigade Support Battalion (BSB) said that actually being able to practice with the helicopters was helpful because he has had few opportunities to work with aircraft at his unit.

“We learned a lot,” Hofmann said. “The training was good. The environment was good — nice and hot compared to Wisconsin.”

Florida Army National Guard’s Staff Sgt. Giovanni Torres echoed the sentiments of the other Pathfinder students and affirmed that the training will make him a better Soldier.

“It required us to do a lot of memorization and formulas, and a lot of things we don’t do on a daily basis. But it has been a really good experience to learn new things and actually apply them,” Torres, a member of HHC, 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment, said. “It will definitely help me with my attention to detail, because this whole course is about attention to detail.”

If you aspire to challenge your own capabilities, both academically and out in the field, the Guard has many training opportunities similar to the Pathfinder Course. Visit our jobs board and contact a recruiter today.


Original article by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa, Florida National Guard, appeared Sept. 26 in the news section of

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