Having an ordinary career is something 17-year-old Ashley Barnes is trying to avoid. She is accomplishing this goal by enlisting in the Army National Guard.
"I want a challenge," says Barnes. "[The Army National Guard] will help me overcome my fears and become stronger, both mentally and physically."
Although Barnes is only a junior at Glendale High School in Arizona, she will attend basic training this summer.
Each state, territory and the District of Columbia has its own Army National Guard. After initial training is completed, those serving are assigned to units and train part time but have a full-time commitment should their country or community need them. Army Guard soldiers are required to serve one weekend a month and two weeks a year (usually in the summer.)
According to the Army National Guard Web site, www.1-800-GO-GUARD.com, weekend drills usually consist of one Saturday and Sunday each month, but occasionally include reporting for duty on Friday night. All Guard personnel without prior military service are required to attend initial entry training (IET), also known as basic training. After basic training, soldiers go to advanced individual training (AIT) that teaches them the special skills they will need for their job in the Guard. These schools can usually be scheduled to accommodate civilian jobs or school constraints.
Barnes is training to become part of the military police. During basic training, she will learn about combat, shooting ranges and how to prepare for natural disasters.
"[Serving in the Army National Guard] is financially beneficial because it will pay for my college, will give insurance and benefits," says Barnes.
Barnes is looking at attending college at the Arizona Automotive Institution or Northern Arizona University. She is also active in every aspect of life at Glendale High School. She is on the junior varsity softball team, varsity cheerleading squad, plays basketball and takes dance classes.
Although there are many paths she could follow in order to lead a successful life, Barnes is set on the Army National Guard.
"When I'm done, I'll have a real sense of accomplishment," said Barnes. "I'll be able to serve my country."