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National Guard and Reserve

Serving in the National Guard & Reserve

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

 

Full disclosure: I ‘grew up’ in the Reserve Component of the US Armed Forces. The Missouri National Guard, to be specific. It’s what helped shape me into who I am today and had a bearing on how I approached the various positions I held in the Army. And no surprise, it will be the lens through which I write the rest of this post. Consider me a fan of the National Guard and Reserve…

I’m not writing this because there’s a military draft on its way, or that we’re getting ready for an extended conflict in the Middle East…no, I’m writing on this particular subject because the reserve forces of these United States of America are so vital to our national defense that they deserve some attention every now and again.

What kind of forces are we talking about? It’s what some of us refer to as the Seven Seals: Army National Guard, Air National Guard, Army Reserve, Coast Guard Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, and Air Force Reserve. Some of these part-time forces have been around for quite a while (the oldest is the National Guard, closing in on 400 years), and armories have been a hub in many of our communities for decades. And while many of us are familiar with the similarities, I talk with folks all the time who are surprised when they discover the differences between those components of our military reserve.

Some of those differences are branch-specific; with Army forces, both Guard Soldiers and Army Reserve Soldiers train one weekend per month and two weeks every summer (but there may be opportunities to go on orders for extended periods). Both National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers can be called into full-time service to support Army missions (and not just for combat deployments). The primary distinction, though, is that National Guard Soldiers serve a dual mission…either a State’s Governor or the President of the United States can call up the National Guard, for state emergency duty or a federal mobilization. That’s just what the Army has to offer for potential Citizen-Soldiers…the other branches of service have their own ways of doing business, and their own opportunities. Just know that today, serving in the Guard & Reserve is so much more than one weekend a month & 2 weeks in the summer.

Way back in the mid-1980s, when I joined the local National Guard unit while I was going to college, it was a different fighting force than it is today. While we were proud of our ability to shoot, move, and communicate (yes, I was in a Field Artillery unit), at the local armory it seemed more about the camaraderie and sense of belonging than anything else. But that was pre-Desert Storm, and pre-Global War of Terror. During that decade after the first Gulf War, leading up to 9/11, it felt like our reserve forces were changing…more modern equipment for many of our units, more inclusion by our active duty counterparts. Less about being “in the rear with the gear,” if we were even called up at all. Today, many of our brothers and sisters in the National Guard & Reserve, like their counterparts on active duty, have multiple deployments under their belt while also playing a pivotal role in their local community.

Many of the challenges that traditional members of the reserve component face revolve around their civilian employment…either juggling their co-careers (military service and a civilian occupation) or finding that good civilian job in the first place. I’ve spoken with too many job-seekers over the last decade who feel they’ve dropped out of consideration for an open job when that employer finds out they serve in the Guard or Reserve. I’d like to think that it’s a rare occurrence, not just because it’s less than legal, but because it’s a bad business decision. Folks with military experience bring so much more to an employer’s workforce than those without; I always argue that it more than makes up for the time they may have to spend away on training or on a deployment.

Fortunately, for those that have a civilian job and get called away to serve, there’s USERRA, which is the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (esgr.mil/USERRA/What-is-USERRA). USERRA is a Federal law that establishes rights and responsibilities for uniformed Service members and their civilian employers. USERRA “protects the job rights of individuals who voluntarily or involuntarily leave employment positions to perform service in the uniformed Services, to include certain types of service in the National Disaster Medical System and the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service.”

USERRA’s protections are intended to ensure that persons who serve or have served in the Armed Forces, Reserve, National Guard, or other uniformed Services: (1) are not disadvantaged in their civilian careers because of their service; (2) are promptly reemployed in their civilian jobs upon their return from duty; and (3) are not discriminated against in employment based on past, present, or future military service. Just as important, the law is intended to encourage non-career uniformed service so the United States can enjoy the protection of those Services, staffed by qualified people, while maintaining a balance with the needs of private and public employers who also depend on these same individuals. For more information on this Act and the agency that is its biggest cheerleader, check out Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), at esgr.mil. ESGR is a Department of Defense program established in 1972 “to promote cooperation and understanding between Reserve Component Service members and their civilian employers and to assist in the resolution of conflicts arising from an employee’s military commitment.”

I’m not a recruiter – never have been – but I maintain that it’s a great way to serve, if you’re qualified. And while, certainly, there are challenges with serving and maintaining a co-career in the Guard & Reserve, there are benefits, too. You might be eligible for G.I. Bill benefits, state-level tuition assistance to help pay for college, VA home loans to buy a house, and even health insurance. If you’ve separated from the Service & miss your time in uniform or know someone else that wants to serve, reach out to the local recruiter & see what’s on the table. With some of the Services, you’ll find over 100 different jobs you might be eligible for, from high-tech jobs to practical trade skills or vocations where you get to blow stuff up.

I thought I’d include some quick links here, just in case you want to make a connection (yes, a Military Connection). Keep in mind that these links may change, or the links might stay the same but the options for joining might be different based on the needs of that particular Service. Visit the Army National Guard at https://www.nationalguard.com/; the Air National Guard at https://www.goang.com/; the Army Reserve at https://www.goarmy.com/reserve.html; the Coast Guard Reserve at https://www.gocoastguard.com/reserve-careers; the Navy Reserve at https://www.navy.com/forward; the Marine Corps Reserve at https://www.marforres.marines.mil/; and the Air Force Reserve at https://afreserve.com/.

So, when you come across that ‘weekend warrior’ in your local community, I encourage you to see beyond the uniform. Sure, you can thank her or him for their service, or show your appreciation in other ways; but I hope you consider more consciously the challenges they face, even in times of peace and no deployments. Consider how they juggle the co-careers of military service and a civilian occupation, or how they’ll leave it all behind to deploy when necessary. And if you weren’t already, I hope you’re now a fan of the National Guard and Reserve, too.

Until next time…

Majority of Young American Adults Are Unfit for Military Service

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By Debbie Gregory.

The failure of Americans from 17- 24 years old to meet weight and fitness standards, as well as issues with conduct, medical concerns, mental health, and substance abuse are causing significant recruiting problems for the military.

And that doesn’t even take into consideration the prospects that are in college or the ones who have no interest in military service.

A big misconception is that military service disproportionately attracts minorities and men and women from disadvantaged backgrounds. Many believe that troops enlist because they have few options, not because they want to serve their country.

But often times, military service is a family tradition. Some 80% of recruits currently entering the military have family members who served, with between 22% and 35% being the children of veterans.

As the veteran population shrinks, the obligation to serve is increasingly being shouldered by a small subset of multigenerational military families. A soldier’s demographic characteristics are of little importance in the military, which values honor, leadership, self-sacrifice, courage, and integrity-qualities that cannot be quantified.

There are a number of ways that the military is looking to beef up its numbers. Besides aggressive marketing, the service branches are offering incentives such as relaxed standards, monetary bonuses, sabbatical leaves, and of course, the great GI Bill benefits.

There is also a big push to recall veterans to active duty.

But will this be enough?

“If we don’t turn this around, where does the world’s strongest military recruit from?” asked Rep. Don Bacon, a Nebraska Republican and former Air Force one-star general.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Survey Reveals Many Mil Parents Don’t Want Their Children to Enlist

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By Debbie Gregory.

In what would have been almost unheard of in past decades, a new  survey of military families revealed that a majority of active-duty military families — 57 percent of them — said they were unlikely to recommend that their own children join the service.

In the past, military families tended to remain military families. But the Blue Star Families survey revealed a shift, which could be due to the multiple deployments faced by current and recent servicemembers. In the past 15 years, servicemen and women have been sent on multiple rotations to conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Another factor, according to Kathy Roth-Douquet, president and CEO of Blue Star Families, is the cuts in benefits.

“It’s the reductions in forces at the same time as we are increasing our mission,” said Roth-Douquet.

Blue Star said 72 percent of active duty personnel and their spouses found the rate of deployments created too much stress for them. “Among active duty and military spouses who indicated they planned to leave service in the next two years, deployment was the top stressor for both groups with 83 percent and 85 percent, respectively,” the report reads.

Repeated moves also have a serious effect on military spouse employment. Many spouses cannot get or keep jobs. More than 20 percent are unemployed, the survey found, and many more are underemployed.

Fewer than half of military families in which one spouse is a civilian earn two incomes, compared to 66 percent of non-military couples, the survey found.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Decisiveness, Tenacity & Initiative Make Veterans the Best Employees

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By Debbie Gregory.

When it comes to the characteristics that make employees the most valuable, the list is pretty long. But there are a few extra boxes that are ticked by military veterans that help make them among the most valued employees.

Decisiveness

Decisiveness is defined as being characterized by firmness and decision. Those who serve seldom have the luxury of long analysis when it comes to making a decision regarding a specific situation. They are trained to gather intel and understand it thoroughly. From the strength of a decision comes the ability to act. Being decisive is simply the most rational way to take on any problem. You observe the information you have available and then you decide what would be the most successful course of action. If you can’t get more data, decisive people simply make a decision based on the facts available.

Tenacity

Veterans know all about persistence and perseverance. Regardless of their branch of service, these former military members went through rigorous and demanding basic training (boot camp) in preparation for military service.

Initiative

Initiative is defined as an individual’s action that begins a process, often done without direct managerial influence. Anyone who has served  in the military learns to follow orders. But through their training, they also learn that they may be faced with situations that requires them to take action in the absence of orders. If something needs to be done, they don’t have to wait to be told.

So if you are an employer and you’re thinking of hiring veterans, keep in mind that there is value in these potential employees that goes beyond the specialized skills they learned in the military. The very nature of being in the military has given them attributes unlike those that people can gain through any other type of employment.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Moving in the Right Direction to Reduce Veteran Homelessness

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By Debbie Gregory.

Veterans are homeless for different reasons and have different needs, but one thing that every homeless veteran needs is a home. Because of veterans’ military service, this population is at higher risk of experiencing traumatic brain injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), both of which have been found to be among the most substantial risk factors for homelessness

No veteran should be without a place to call home. Those who have risked their lives for our freedom should not come home and be forced to sleep on the streets.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) the number of veterans experiencing homelessness in the United States has been cut nearly in half since 2010. Much of the success can be attributed in part to the effectiveness of the HUD-VASH Program.

Although that is a great statistic, as of January of this year, there were still approximately 13,000 homeless veterans living on the streets, with about 50% of those living in just two states: California and Florida.

Homeless veterans  or veterans at imminent risk of becoming homeless can call or visit their local VA Medical Center or Community Resource and Referral Center where VA staff are ready to help.

Veterans and their families may also call 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838) to access VA services.

Explore va.gov/homeless to learn about VA programs for veterans who are homeless and share that information with others.

Additionally, CalVet is addressing California’s veteran homelessness by working with various government and non-government agencies and organizations, throughout the state, to provide advocacy and services needed by veterans who are homeless or at risk. To find housing assistance programs available in the area, call (800) 952-5626 or (800) 221-8998 (outside California).

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

How Will Millennials Affect the Military?

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By Debbie Gregory.

There is a big difference between Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), Gen-xers (born between the mid-sixties and the early 80’s) and Millennials, who were born after Gen-x , up until around the time of the new millennium. But how will their service in today’s military fare against that of previous generations?

There are stereotypes that Millennials got rewarded just for “showing up.”  Are they too self- involved and reliant on social media to make good servicemembers? And how do you reach them when their heads are constantly buried in their smartphones?

Despite the social media memes questioning whether Millennials would have the guts to hop off a landing craft on Omaha Beach during the 1944 D-Day invasion, Millennials have fought, bled, and died in fierce combat from Fallujah to Marjah. Six out of the eleven servicemembers to be awarded the Medal of Honor for operations in Afghanistan have been Millennials.

As of 2014, the last year for which a full Defense Department-produced demographics report was done, about 4 in 5 active-duty service members were 35 years old or younger. Only 14.4 percent of the enlisted force was age 36 and up, and more than half the active-duty officer corps fell in the millennial bracket.

Raised in the digital age, Millennials have the ability to learn new systems, operate them efficiently, and deploy them quickly.

As they age, Millennials are increasingly choosing careers in military service. Millennials already make up the majority of the armed forces, and their influence will only continue to grow as the generation matures.

For some, the financial stability and excellent benefits pose an attractive alternative to the unreliable economy and job market they have known. For others, serving in the military meets their need for good, impactful work by serving their country.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Should Military Service Earn Non-citizen Veterans a Second Chance at Citizenship?

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By Debbie Gregory.

A baby born on U.S. soil is automatically granted U.S. citizenship. Another path to citizenship is through military service. In fact, joining the U.S. military has always been one of the fastest ways to get U.S. citizenship. But it doesn’t happen automatically. And unfortunately, veterans who did not go through the process of becoming citizens, if they get in trouble, can be deported.

This is a fact known all too well by Hector Barajas-Varela. Born in Mexico, the 39-year-old Army veteran came to the U.S. illegally when he was seven. Although he donned a U.S. military uniform and received an honorable discharge, Barajas-Varela never followed through on his naturalization paperwork.

In 2002, Barajas-Varela was deported after pleading guilty to felony charges resulting from issues with alcohol and drugs. He founded the Deported Veterans Support House, known as the Bunker, a shelter for former U.S. military servicemembers who find themselves in the same situation.

The Bunker offers assistance and support from fellow veterans and volunteers.

Miguel Gabriel Vazquez is one of two Vietnam War veterans who offer counseling at the Bunker. Vazquez, a trained counselor with a master’s degree in psychology, comes to the bunker once a week to do individual counseling.

“They all have PTSD whether diagnosed or not,” said Vazquez, who has not been deported but lives in Rosarita Beach, Mexico, where he moved to write a book on healing PTSD naturally. “These guys get all that plus the trauma of being deported.”

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is considering Barajas-Varela’s application after his crime — discharging a firearm — was reclassified and is no longer an aggravated felony.

Naturalization used to be part of basic training, but the laws changed. As a result, lots of green card holders went to Iraq and Afghanistan without becoming citizens.

U.S. immigration law states that non-citizens who commit serious crimes forfeit their right to remain in the country. Deported veterans and their advocates say those who wear the uniform should be treated as U.S. citizens: punished for any crimes they commit, but not deported.

Facts About Social Security and Your Military Service

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By Debbie Gregory.

Did you know you can receive both Social Security benefits and military retirement? Under most circumstances, there is no reduction of Social Security benefits because of your military retirement benefits. You’ll get your full Social Security benefit based on your earnings.

Since 1957, if you had military service earnings for active duty (including active duty for training), you paid Social Security taxes on those earnings. Since 1988, inactive duty service in the Armed Forces reserves (such as weekend drills) has also been covered by Social Security. If you served in the military before 1957, you did not pay Social Security taxes, but you are given special credit for some of your service.

During your service, you pay Social Security taxes just the same as civilians do. In order to qualify for benefits, you must have worked and paid Social Security taxes for at least ten years, including your civilian employment.

Your benefit amount depends on your earnings, averaged over your working lifetime. So, for the most part, the higher your earnings, the higher your Social Security benefit will be.

When you apply for Social Security benefits, you will be asked for proof of your military service (DD Form 214) or information about your reserve or National Guard service. In addition to providing retirement benefits, Social Security benefits are paid out to you and your family if you become disabled. Social Security pays survivors benefits to your family when you die.

While you can retire as early as age 62, your Social Security benefits will be permanently reduced. If you delay applying for benefits until your full retirement age, you can work and still get some Social Security benefits, but when you reach your full retirement age, you can get all of your Social Security benefits regardless of your income.

For more information, visit Social Security online or call the Social Security office toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. The TTY number for the deaf and hard of hearing is 800-325-0778.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Airman Earns Citizenship Through Military Service

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By Debbie Gregory.

When she was growing up in the Philippines, Air Force Reserve Senior Airman Anne Venice Jalos never envisioned that one day she would be serving in the U.S. military. She also never thought that the military service would lead to her becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen.

But soon after graduating high school, Jalos made the decision to enlist in the Air Force. Luckily for Jalos, her recruiter was well-versed on the military guidance on naturalization.

Special provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) authorize U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to expedite the application and naturalization process for current members of the U.S. armed forces and recently discharged servicemembers. Generally, qualifying military service includes service with one of the following: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and National Guard. In addition, spouses of members of the U.S. armed forces who are or will be deployed may be eligible for expedited naturalization. Other provisions of the law also allow certain spouses to complete the naturalization process abroad.

Four weeks of citizenship testing and the successful completion of basic training soon culminated in what would be one of the most meaningful moments in Jalos’ life.

“When I was presented with my Airman’s coin at graduation and I knew I was officially a citizen, I was overwhelmed,” the finance manager with the 446th Airlift Wing said. “Saying, ‘I am an American Airman’ finally had so much meaning to me because I knew that I really was an American.”

Jalos exhibited the requirements needed to qualify for the program: good moral character; knowledge of the English language; knowledge of U.S. government and history (civics), and attachment to the United States by taking an Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. Constitution.
“Being in the military has changed my life,” Jalos said. “I know I can become who I want to be.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.