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Whether we are part-time Soldiers and Airmen, or full-time members of our force, it's easy to forget --in our day-to-day routine-- that service is often about sacrifice.
My message is for all of the Soldiers and Airman. And it's pretty simple.
I want you to stay in the New York National Guard.
You may not realize it, or hear it often enough, but you are the most valuable assets of the United States, the Army, the Air Force and the state of New York.
Since you enlisted, the Army and Air Force have invested tens of thousands of dollars in training you. Whether an MP, a truck driver, an intelligence analyst, a supply specialist, a unit clerk, a pilot, aircraft mechanic, doctor, nurse, crew chief, mortar crewman, cavalry scout or medic your skills matter.
But more important than that initial training is the experience you've acquired as you grew into your job over the past four or five years. Given several annual training periods, repeated weekend drills, and maybe an overseas training deployment or a combat zone mission, you gained experience in what you do and how you do it. You're a better Soldier or Airman than when you first joined. Now the new recruits look to you for advice and information on how things work and how to do the job.
General Joseph Lengyel, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau touts the National Guard as an operational force. That means the men and women of the National Guard have a day-to-day role to play in the defense of the United States. That means you have a role to protect the nation. Sometimes that means simply going to drill and annual training and being part of a force that is ready. Sometimes that will mean additional training days because your unit is slated to deploy earlier in a crisis as a focused readiness unit or an Air Expeditionary Squadron. And sometimes that means leaving work, family and friends for deployment to Kuwait, Afghanistan, or Europe and being away from home for a year on active duty.
As I write this, we have some 300 signal Soldiers from the 101st Expeditionary Signal Battalion deployed across a dozen countries in the Middle East. We've also got 200 members of the 27th Infantry Brigade and 101st Cavalry on duty in Europe training troops in Ukraine, and we have airman supporting combat operations in various theaters daily. These are vital missions that need skilled, trained, experienced Soldiers and Airman like you.
Here at home over the past year we responded to assist in floods, snowstorms and hurricanes. We sent MPs, helicopter crews, aircrews, airman, and combat engineers to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands last year to help out our fellow Americans there.
You matter when it comes to these missions on our home front.
I know belonging to the National Guard can be frustrating at times. It can be frustrating to sit and wait for the buses to take you to Fort Drum or Fort Dix when they are late, and they always seem to be late. It is frustrating when training schedules changes and now you are in hurry up and wait mode. It is frustrating when things seem disorganized. It can be frustrating to be on state active duty waiting in the armory or wing to go out on mission but nothing seems to happen. It can be frustrating when friends are heading to the beach on a nice summer day and you have drill. It can be frustrating when you're at annual training when your daughter's birthday comes around. It can be frustrating trying to get a college degree and you have to go to drill before the big test. And I know it is especially frustrating when opportunities to go to a military school and earn promotion don't seem to be there or doesn't fit in with your other obligations. Service as a Guard Soldier can take a time commitment that is sometimes very ill-timed.
And being a Soldier or Airman also means being miserable at times. It means being on the range in the rain, sleeping in a tent, eating dinner on the hood of a humvee, and going without a shower long enough to start smelling yourself.
There are plenty of tangible reasons to stay in the Guard.
The extra income can help on a car payment or cover part of the rent or a mortgage. There's a tremendous life insurance benefit for your family and a chance to purchase low-cost health insurance if you need it. There's access to the PX and commissary on posts or online. And if you stay long enough, there is money for retirement. There are cash incentives for reenlisting ranging from $20,000 for six years to $4,000 for two years and up to $50,000 to repay student loans if you're in the Army.
I would encourage you to ask people who have stayed in why they made that decision. They may tell you they made the Guard a career for the intangible reasons. They value the opportunity to serve. They like being part of something bigger than themselves. They value serving the United States and New York and their hometown. They enjoy the comradery of their unit and the friendships made at 2 a.m. on the range or in the field in the rain. They value the sense of purpose that wearing the uniform of our country gives you.
If you're thinking about leaving when your time is up, do me a favor and talk to somebody first. Talk to your retention NCO. Find out what you might be giving up. If you're tired of one job see if you can reclassify into another. Maybe there is a bonus for your MOS or AFSC. Talk to your leaders. Talk to the company commander or squadron commander about why you are thinking of leaving. Find out what training opportunities are coming up. Find out what schools you can qualify for that get you promoted. Most importantly, talk to the veterans in your unit. Ask them why they stayed in. Why does Guard service matter to them? They were your age once. They thought about getting out too.
Finally, you can always call me or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). Call my office at (518) 786-4501 and tell the person that answers the phone that you would like to speak to General German about why you should stay in the Guard. They'll put you on my schedule for a call back.
We want you. You are an important member of our team and I want you to stay in. Thank you for all you do.