Making the case for the Army National Guard

By Jenna Jamieson, Opinion Writer

At Southern Illinois University Carbondale, students have the ability to learn more about the military while getting their education paid for through programs with the Illinois Army National Guard. 

It is a program I hold particularly close to my heart because I have seen the impact that the leadership and team building exercises have had on my Carbondale Community High School students. 

I’ve always had a sincere appreciation for the military from my many trips to the memorials and monuments in Washington D.C. when I was growing up. It’s why I find it frustrating when students don’t execute their right to vote and celebrate the men and women in uniform. 

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The community events, parades and celebrations that have gone on for centuries across the United States typically involves military personnel. From those that have served to those that are now serving, offer a lot to our communities far beyond their service. 

It’s one reason why I find it disconcerting to see high school and college students discount military programs like the Army National Guard. Many believe it will lead to a delay in the start of their career.  

In fact, there’s even misconceptions about what it means to join the National Guard because some students believe it takes them much longer to finish their degree. That’s actually not usually the case. Assumptions and poor research may be causing students to lose out on great programs. 

While some neglect to explore these opportunities due to their own thoughts on what the National Guard requires, others believe it will not allow them to go down the specific career path they want such as business, architecture, education or some other interest. Again, that is absolutely not the case. 

Students choose a part-time skill trait of their choice. A few of the options include medical, engineering, welding, aviation, communications and human resources. You actually choose what career path you want and gain experience in the field. They also serve their community, state and country through various projects such as assisting during natural disasters. 

“Students will have the privilege of learning from a variety of experiences they take part in including with the military. There is also an emphasis on community involvement,” Sergeant First Class Chris Henry, an on-campus Illinois Army National Guard recruiter, said. 

I can attest to the skills and expertise that the program helps build in students. I have seen Henry work with my students. As a teacher, I work hard to develop a rapport with my students and make sure they are comfortable with each other in the classroom. I could tell Henry does the same. 

Henry teaches a military course, Military Science 101/102, that includes both military personnel and civilians, providing basic military information to his students. In his class, students can learn more about opportunities while having access to someone that is well versed in military employment. 

By joining the National Guard, students are earning their degree while developing skills during their once a month paid duty. Skills that are being enhanced include communication, teamwork, coordination and time management, while also teaching students about setting goals. 

Some may say the weekend commitments are too strenuous, but truthfully these engagements help prepare students to go out into their communities to get more involved. 

“The National Guard develops skills such as teamwork, leadership and work ethic,” Jordan Mullen, a senior studying accounting, said. “It also gives students the chance to participate in activities such as field training where you learn more about working with others.”

These skills are a reminder that the Army National Guard seeks to create strong leaders who impact their communities. If you are interested in learning more, Henry takes his recruiting efforts all across campus. He works regularly with many departments including SIU Athletics and New Student Programs.

It’s a very lucrative opportunity for students who want to earn their degree while also developing their skill set and marketability after college. The Illinois Army National Guard provides a guard grant to any state-funded school in Illinois to help with tuition expenses. The student chooses their field of study or vocational certificate.  

The National Guard program is something that more students need to be aware of because of its many benefits. I appreciate the service of military students and personnel, but beyond that I appreciate their community involvement.

I love what the Army National Guard can do for high school and college students. I think it enhances their skills outside of the classroom while they are pursuing their education. It increases their self-confidence and creates community oriented citizens that recognize the importance of giving back.  

It was clear that Henry cares about giving back and the people here. He has worked with most area high schools and been involved with the university since 2010. His passion for community is a great reminder that there’s something special that students can glean from getting to know the people that live here, grew up here or are choosing to raise families here.  

The work he is teaching allows us to have very well-rounded students that are developing skills through service. The community projects may include helping fellow citizens clean up after natural disasters and participating in events at SIU and the surrounding area. National Guard members are making the community stronger, serving others and making a difference.

That’s the type of community I love living in. That’s why the Army National Guard is a great way to instill strong service and volunteer skills in youth while also paying for post-secondary education. 

You can find Henry in his black Army National Guard golf cart giving out free goodies to students. You can also visit him each month in the Student Center. He will be giving away freebies on Oct. 21 and 22, Nov. 4 and 5 and Dec. 2 and 3. 

Opinion Writer Jenna Jamieson can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @jennarpjamieson.

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