When it comes to making the decision about what to do after high school, many students probably think there are only three options: college, career or the military. But what if you want to give back to your country and receive an education at the same time? While it might seem difficult, there is actually a great option for students who want to do both. The Army National Guard can train recruits for a future in the military while allowing them to be full-time students and even graduate on-time alongside their peers.
We wanted to learn more about what it’s like to be a part of the Army National Guard, so we talked to Sergeant 1st Class Rob Buchanan, a recruiter in the Rochester, N.Y. area who has served 20 years in the military and has been recruiting for the National Guard for the past 12 years.
Students who decide to enlist in the Army National Guard while going to school receive educational benefits for their service that can help pay for college tuition.
According to Sgt. 1st Class Buchanan, the National Guard will provide tuition assistance to soldiers attending either a four-year state school or community college. In addition, students who are attending a private four-year college can get the equivalent of a state school’s tuition paid toward their education, so those students are able to profit from the education benefits of the National Guard as well. After completing Basic and Advanced Training, students are eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill that provides up to 36 months of educational tuition assistance in addition to the benefits provided by the National Guard.
How do I get started?
According to Sgt. 1st Class Buchanan, recruits will go through a local Military Entrance Processing Station where they will be sworn in and prepared for their service before training starts. After this happens, students are given a specific job, or a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). Next, they attend Army Basic Training which is followed by Army Advanced Individual Training that focuses specifically on the military job (MOS) they have qualified for. This training is performed on an Army base. Once completed, the recruits are allowed to go home and, if they decide it’s the path they want to take, they have the option to become a full-time student while remaining an active member of the National Guard.
Serving and learning
After completing Basic and Advanced Individual Training, soldier/students will participate in training for a minimum of one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer, where they learn more about the job they were trained for by the Army. Monthly drills and annual training are means of keeping Guard member proficient in the job that they have been given by the Army while also keeping them able to attend classes or have a separate civilian job. By having required training sessions on the weekends and during the summer, recruits are able to keep up with their studies during the week while honing their military skills on the weekends.
“The nice part about the National Guard is that you can get the best of both worlds,” says Sgt. 1st Class Buchanan. You can serve part-time and try the military out while going to college full-time. "You have the benefit of going to school and serving your country.”
The benefits reach close to home
“The National Guard is the only military branch that gets deployed on U.S. soil,” says Sgt. 1st Class Buchanan. In that way, if you are someone who is passionate about giving back directly to your country and community, the Army National Guard is your best bet. While members of the National Guard do get deployed overseas, the unique opportunity to serve and study locally is an important factor that prospects should consider when trying to decide what path they want to take in the future.
Standing out as a soldier
Once you have made the decision to become part of the National Guard, it’s important that you make a good impression to prove that you’ll be a good soldier. “Being a well-rounded soldier and making sure that you attend all your weekend drills and [master] your tasks,” is something that Sgt. 1st Class Buchanan insists on. In addition, your physical conditioning is something that should be “top notch.”