Why Join The National Guard? Tuition Exemption (Just Ask My Son!)
That's my son rappelling down a wall at Camp Beauregard.
Can you imagine looking over that edge, with only a rope between you and a straight fall down about 50 feet?
Life feels that way for many high school seniors looking at their future, uncertain how to pay for college and not knowing if there will be a rope at all.
My son Cory managed to figure it out and enlisted in the Louisiana National Guard on February 17, 2017.
My husband and I were fortunate to be able to watch him take the oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the state of Louisiana.
As a mother, it was one of the greatest moments of pride I've ever experienced, but also one of the most frightening. The person who swore them in reminded them that we are still a country at war, and that our military is in place to defend her. My son, at the time still a senior in high school, would soon be part of that group. It was a choice he had made on his own.
WHY DID HE JOIN?
It was not an easy decision to make, as you might imagine.
The biggest reason is the fact that soldiers with Louisiana National Guard receive tuition-exempt status at any state school for higher education as long as they remain in good standing with the Guard. With the current situation with TOPS, those students who may have depended on it to help fund their college education are left looking for alternatives. My son is one of those.
Additionally, soldiers can receive a portion of the GI bill while they attend school which helps to pay for any fees (which can be exorbitant) and any other school expenses.
National Guard soldiers report to drill once a month and report for a two week drill in the summertime. They are paid for that, as well.
My son was also intrigued by the job opportunities the Guard had to offer and how what he decided to do while enlisted could help him advance in the real world.
He will major in either electrical engineering or computer science, so he decided to sign up for a computer-related job with the National Guard. He recognized that his experience in that job would be valuable once he began a career in the real world.
Something he was not prepared for was to enjoy much of what he has been exposed to in the National Guard already.
Once a recruit is enlisted and before they ship out to basic training, they enter what's called the Recruit Sustainment Program (RSP) that helps them to prepare for what they will face during their 10 weeks at whichever camp they report to.
They basically learn to be soldiers and begin the process of working on their physical conditioning. They work with a sergeant and a cadre who teach them how to stand, how to talk "military," how to march, and things they need to know that will help them transition from civilian life to military life.
And did I mention he told me he's actually having fun? Yes. FUN!
Since the program began in 2006, the success rate for recruits in the National Guard has gone from about 70% to over 95%.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU'RE ELIGIBLE?
There are basic requirements to join the National Guard. You must:
- Be between the ages of 17 and 35
- Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- Be a at least a junior in high school, or have a high school diploma or a GED certificate
- Meet medical, physical and moral requirements
You read that correctly. A student can join in their junior year of high school if they are 17. It's part of the delayed entry program.
The student goes to basic training during the summer between their junior and senior years of high school, participates in RSP during their senior year, and then reports to their advanced training (AIT) after they graduate.
The cool thing about this is that they are getting paid as a National Guard soldier the whole time because, well, they are!
GOT QUESTIONS OR WANT TO SIGN UP?
Recruiters are stationed throughout the state. Guidance counselors at the high schools have contact information for most of them.
You can also visit nationalguard.com.
If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nothing in life comes easy, and anything worth having is worth working for. These are ideals my husband and I have taught my children. I'm so proud that my son has taken his future into his own hands, and I know God will watch over him no matter where this path leads.