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 NationalGuard.mil in November 2019.

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Guard Soldier Breaks the Mold and Does it All

SPC Arshia Gill prepares a door for a breaching exercise on a demolitions range at the Yakima Training Center during her unit’s annual training.

SPC Arshia Gill prepares a door for a breaching exercise on a demolitions range at the Yakima Training Center during her unit’s annual training. (Photo by SGT David Carnahan.)

CAMP MURRAY, Wash. – Specialist (SPC) Arshia Gill is breaking the mold and has become one of the many new female Soldiers stepping into combat military occupational specialties (MOSs).

But, for SPC Gill, she’s become more than just a trailblazer – she’s an engineer, a student, and a Soldier all wrapped into one. SPC Gill is a 12B Combat Engineer with Alpha Company, 898 Brigade Engineer Battalion, 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team in the Washington Army National Guard.

“If a I had an opportunity to do this all over again, even though it’s very difficult managing it, I definitely would; it’s a cool experience,” says SPC Gill.

“She’s always the first one wanting to learn and go do something,” added Sergeant (SGT) Jason Longmire with Alpha Company, 898 Brigade Engineer Battalion, 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team. “We were doing urban breaching [training] yesterday and she was right there, right next to the door, maybe five or 10 feet away holding the blast blanket so that no one got hurt.”

SPC Gill’s company commander, Captain (CPT) Brandon Buehler, describes her as a warrior and a true combat engineer. Combat engineers are expected to be able to build structures, operate explosives, and do the appropriate mathematics to ensure that both are done correctly.

When she’s not at drill, SPC Gill is a full-time student at the University of Puget Sound. The two lifestyles are night and day. Her school’s trim and manicured campus is a world away from the hot and dusty field at the Yakima Training Center. Transitioning back and forth can be challenging.

“If I have a weekend off, I usually visit home and my family,” SPC Gill says. “That usually puts me back on my feet if I’m having a tough time.”

Family is a big motivator for her.

“Most of the men in my family have served in different armies around the world, and I am the first in my generation, and also the first female [Soldier] in my family.”

In January 2016, the Department of Defense opened all military occupational specialties to women. 

“I was a little scared after basic because drill sergeants try to freak you out about being one of the first women in a combat MOS that just opened up,” SPC Gill says. “[I heard] a lot about being able to carry your own weight, and I pride myself in being able to do that.”

SPC Gill was nervous about arriving in her first unit, but that concern went away when she got to know her new teammates.

“I honestly feel blessed to be in this unit,” she says. “I’m just really happy that I got placed with some of the men that are in this unit because they’re very respectful, and the transition was very easy. I didn’t feel like there were any bumps in the road or anything like that.”

So if you’re looking to join a team that has your back no matter what, consider joining the Army National Guard. You’ll serve part-time and close to home, which will allow you, like SPC Gill, to focus on other things, too, like going to college or working in a civilian career.

Besides flexibility, the Guard also offers fantastic education benefits and training in jobs that range from engineering to infantry to intelligence and more. See our job board to learn more, and contact your local recruiter for details.

From an original story by SPC Alec Dionne, 122nd Public Affairs Operations Center, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in July.

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