This Soldier Says: When it Comes to Career, You Set Your Own Destiny

SFC William "Dale" Bart

SFC William "Dale" Bart

Growing up “pretty much dirt poor” on a farm in West Virginia, a young William “Dale” Bart wouldn’t have dreamed he would go to Panama, Honduras, Bosnia, and Iraq; learn Arabic; or pack up and move thousands of miles from home to Alaska.

But as an adult, this is what he believes: “You set your own destiny as far as your career goes. Where you came from doesn’t matter at all. It’s who you are and what you strive to become.”

This philosophy serves Sergeant First Class Bart well in his position as a Recruiting and Retention Section Chief for the Alaska Army National Guard. His job is to reach out to 17- to 24-year-olds and introduce them to the Guard way of life — which is all about serving the country and serving one’s community while pursuing a degree and/or a full-time civilian career.

The opportunities that come with that part-time service have led to a full-time career in the Guard for SFC Bart, who joined nearly 19 years ago at age 17. After attending a presentation by a recruiter who happened to be his Pee Wee football coach, he decided Guard life was a good fit: He could attend a local college while serving part-time.

When he joined, SFC Bart chose 31B-Military Police as his Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). Guard trainings and deployments took him to a number of countries, including Iraq, where he trained Iraqi police officers and learned enough Arabic to become a “novice conversationalist.”

He also pursued law enforcement as his civilian career working with the Richmond (Va.) City Sheriff’s Department and was able to arrange an interstate transfer to the Virginia National Guard so that both of his jobs would be located closer together.

But after years of working against narcotics and gangs (“I got to see a whole lot of the bad.”), SFC Bart signed up immediately when the opportunity to become a full-time Guard recruiter became available in 2009.

“I saw I could change young people’s lives in a positive way instead of always affecting them in a negative way when they’re on the wrong side of the law.”

In 2013, after leading his State in recruitment for three years, he learned of an opening for the Senior Marketing Non-Commissioned Officer position in Alaska. He has since gone back to recruiting, but because both jobs focus on promoting the benefits of Guard service, both roles were a natural fit.

One of the biggest advantages to Guard service, he says, is money for college.

“I’m actually still using my college benefits today,” he says of the bachelor’s degree in criminal justice he’s pursuing online from Thomas Edison State College.

The leadership skills that the military instills in its Soldiers are also invaluable, Bart says, because you learn how to be part of a team and how to manage people.

He explains that being a Guardsman makes you a “valuable asset to any civilian career field, whether it’s being a manager at McDonald’s, up to being CEO at a company. Once you learn to be a leader, you’re a leader in every aspect of life.”

Other positives are the camaraderie Soldiers develop with each other — that’s how SFC Bart landed his first civilian police job.

“That person that you’re serving with all weekend might be able to open you up to a job opportunity.”

But most important is this: “You get to serve your country and your community. Sure, it’s part-time service, but you’re still a part of something bigger than yourself: You get to affect the lives of your neighbors in a positive way.”

His advice to anyone considering the Guard is an emphatic, “Do it.”

“I have 18 years, 11 months of service, and I would not give a day of service back to win a million dollars. I wouldn’t trade any of the things I’ve been able to experience and learn, or the people I’ve been exposed to.”

If you’d like to gain all the benefits of part-time service with the National Guard, check out our jobs board and contact a recruiter today.


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‘I Have a New Life, Thanks to the Guard’

SSG Shawnda Roberts

SSG Shawnda Roberts

It’s not every day that opportunity comes knocking at the door. For Shawnda Roberts, that knock was both literal and life altering.

Now, technically, it had been the wrong door, the result of a slight mix-up. A recruiter for the Army National Guard had been searching for a nearby address when he showed up at Roberts’ South Florida apartment nine years ago. Rather than send the visitor on his way to the correct destination, Roberts started asking questions about what this branch of the military did. It had been her impression that the Guard was a full-time active duty branch that went to war a lot.

“I was already at war with this life I was stuck in,” says Roberts, who quickly learned once she invited the recruiter inside her home that the Guard was a part-time commitment that offered a lot of benefits.

Roberts was 24 at the time and had already earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology and a master’s in public administration by the time the recruiter showed up. Even with a full-time job in her field as a corrections officer, Roberts felt lost.

“It just wasn’t my passion.”

On top of being unsure about her career path and realizing the burden of student loans, Roberts was also trying to escape an abusive relationship. Growing up, she’d dealt with a family life that had been marred by drugs, violence, and abuse. She’d gone from her mother to her grandmother’s care, and due to the addiction problems of both, had been taken in at one point by her third-grade teacher. And now she was dealing with yet another bad situation.

“By the time the recruiter left, I was blown away. I had no idea I qualified to join the Guard. I knew what my responsibilities would be, the benefits the Guard afforded, and how the Guard could help me accomplish many of my goals.”

Including being able to shed her skin and start anew. Within a matter of weeks, Roberts enlisted in the Florida National Guard.

“I never looked back on that life. I have a new life, thanks to the Guard.”

After Basic Training, her first Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) was 92Y Supply Specialist. She later moved into 31B Military Police and Intelligence because they better aligned with her previous work experience.

Most recently, though, Roberts decided to switch gears a bit. She became a recruiter and staff sergeant last fall. And, because the Guard offers money for college, she also decided to become a certified medical assistant through Florida Career College.

But don’t assume she’s finished her educational pursuits just yet. SSG Roberts’ next plan is to become a physician assistant through the Army’s Interservice Physician Assistant Program (IPAP). She decided on this as a long-term goal during her deployment to Afghanistan, where she shadowed a physician assistant who helped wounded Soldiers.

“There is no organization I can think of that pays up to $50,000 toward student loans,” says SSG Roberts. “This one benefit alone increased my credit score and kept me out of a financial hardship.”

But the benefits of service go beyond financial security.

“The emotional connection you get from training and deploying with your battle buddies is priceless.”

That’s not to say that life, no matter how much it can improve, is without hardships.

“Part of the Soldier’s Creed is ‘I will never quit.’ This motto has been instilled in me. Replaying those four words in my head is enough motivation to defeat any new obstacles that come my way.”

SSG Roberts also wants to help others overcome obstacles. After she retires from the Guard, one of her goals is to open a center that provides free legal and medical services for people who are struggling because she knows what it is to struggle, and how much it means to receive help.

That’s part of the reason she became a recruiter.

“Somebody has always helped me. I’d like to be able to save at least one person.”

If you’d like more information on how to join the Army National Guard, get in touch with a recruiter — perhaps even SSG Roberts if you happen to be in Florida — and visit the Guard jobs board today.

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21 and Loving All His Options in the Guard

SPC Jonathan Schmidt

SPC Jonathan Schmidt

At age 21, Specialist Jonathan Schmidt has already pursued three different career fields and served in Afghanistan. The North Dakota native started his Army National Guard career in horizontal construction engineering, moved to combat engineering, and is now about to train to be a Recruiter.

Of course, this multi-talented, rapid-fire career trajectory is what you might expect from a guy who got his first job at age 14 and really enjoys a challenge.

But the path to success wasn’t always clear-cut for this Soldier. SPC Schmidt believes he could have gone down a “dark path” after a few brushes with the law in his youth, or turned into “that guy who stays at home and becomes a bum.”

But then he saw what the Reserve Component had done for his older brother, with whom he’d always competed.

“I wanted that camaraderie and those friendships, too,” he said. “The Guard made me believe there was something more out there.”

SPC Schmidt’s first choice of a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) was a natural for a young man who grew up in the Great Plains around a lot of farmland and oilfields.

MOS 12N Horizontal Construction Engineer teaches Soldiers to use heavy machinery to excavate land, level earth for construction projects, and clear out debris. Or, as SPC Schmidt says, “dirt moving and ’dozers. It’s the perfect job skill to bring back to the civilian world.”

These skills came in quite handy in his home state, especially in 2011, when much of North Dakota had been declared a disaster area due to severe flooding of the Missouri and Red rivers.

SPC Schmidt and the rest of 815th Engineer Company went from one town to the next building dikes and filling sandbags.

After those challenges were met, he was asked by a friend and fellow Soldier to volunteer for a deployment in Afghanistan. That meant training for something a little different – MOS 12B Combat Engineer – Construction and Engineering Specialist – in other words, learning how to make obstacles for the enemy, from installing concertina wire to blowing up bridges.

At the same time this change in occupations was occurring in 2012, another opportunity had presented itself. Because the Guard offers money for college, SPC Schmidt, who grew up cooking with his grandmother, had previously applied to a culinary school and found out he’d been accepted. But having already made the commitment to go to Afghanistan with the 815th, he turned it down.

There are culinary MOSs available in the Guard, but SPC Schmidt says if he was going to be deployed, he wanted to be on the front lines rather than in the kitchen.

“I always knew I wanted to deploy. It feels like my duty to do something for my country.”

Now that he’s back in the States, SPC Schmidt is switching gears yet again and is moving into recruiting.

“I always had the gift to talk to people, and I wanted to do something with my talent.”

As a Recruiter, SPC Schmidt will be helping new recruits decide what their MOSs will be. But that doesn’t mean his career trajectory is headed for a permanent plateau.  He loves that there’s a “whole list” of MOSs to choose from and thinks about joining the Special Forces one day.

If you want to see the “whole list” of job opportunities available in the Guard, visit the Army National Guard jobs board and contact a Recruiter today (perhaps even SPC Schmidt when he finishes his training — if you happen to be in North Dakota, that is).

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