By Emily Schaefer, public affairs specialist
Thirty Detroit District employees are members of the National Guard or Reserves and have had opportunities and perspectives that are fulfilling and unique to them.
Alicia M. Smith is a third generation Army National Guard soldier who grew up knowing the lifestyle and understanding what it meant to be part of a unit.
Garrett D. Ray joined the Navy because he wanted to be part of something larger than himself and needed to provide for his family.
“The Army National Guard has provided me with unique opportunities to meet various types of people and perform some pretty interesting training,” said Smith, Detroit District construction control representative. “I think it's through these events and deployments that members of the military gain a different perspective on life in general.”
As a sergeant (E-5) in the 1776th Military Police Company, Taylor, Mich., she is in charge of maintenance, repair and recovery of a wide arrange of Army transportation equipment. She joined the National Guard in 2008, five years before becoming an employee with the district, Smith said.
Ray, Detroit District civil engineering student trainee, enlisted in the Reserves in 2008 and is currently an operations lead petty officer in the Operations Department, also five years before becoming an employee with the district, Ray said.
Persons in the National Guard and Reserves are not full-time active duty military personnel, although they can be deployed at any time should the need arise, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.
The primary purpose of the Reserves and National Guard is to provide a reserve force to supplement the active duty forces when needed.
“The Reserves allow you to do both military and civilian life,” said Ray. “A lot of people do it to serve the country, while pursuing their civilian career.”
“My civilian and military jobs complement one another by being the same civil engineering field with similar requirements such as
project planning, estimating, design and construction execution,” said Ray. “Both being affiliated with military operations helps transitioning back and forth.”
“In my military position, I work with a lot of mechanical parts and systems, which has helped me in my civilian job by giving me experience and understanding in these systems,” said Smith.
In addition to a civilian life and career, a guard or reserve service member is entitled to a variety of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs benefits. Members with active service may qualify for pension, home loans, education, life insurance, disability compensation, health care and burial.
Added benefits of these programs may also include steady income, advancements, paid vacation allowances and tax advantages.
Each National Guard and Reserve service, however, involves different requirements, commitments and responsibilities. Serving in one service branch can be very different from serving in another service branch.
The biggest difference between the Reserves and National Guard is that the Reserves belong to the federal government, while the
National Guard belongs to the individual state government, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.
As of April 2015, about 350 airmen from Selfridge Air National Guard Base of Harrison Charter Township, Mich. are overseas, deployed on an operation in Southwest Asia to eliminate the terrorist group the Islamic State, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Whether in the National Guard or Reserves, service members learn values that they live every day in everything they do, whether they are on or off the job.
“We feel a sense of duty daily to protect and serve. We are willing to leave our homes and families for places unknown. We are willing to lay down our lives for people we don't know,” said Smith. “In general it's these things that make our perspective on family, home, and freedom a little bit different than others.”
“After deployment I felt a need to have more camaraderie with those that I work with,” said Smith. “Being part of a team that worked well together became a primary focus of mine.”
The National Guard and Reserves provide the tools and knowledge that allows members to be leaders within their family, workplace, community and Country.
A guard or reserve service member’s return to work following a deployment or mobilization is a transition, but he or she often brings new skills of leadership, teamwork and perspective that can be invaluable to the organization.
“What we bring to the table benefits the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a whole, but we can’t do what we do without support,” said Ray. “The district is second to none in supporting their military employees.”
Employers’ active support and encouragement is critical to their employees’ success.
“The district is very supportive and understanding when I need to take leave for military drills or annual trainings,” said Smith. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provides myself and others like me with military leave that allows us to not feel any financial strain do to missing work because of military duties.”
Members of the National Guard and reserve face unique challenges associated with their roles as warriors and civilians. They lead lives of purpose, pride and heroism on a mission that serves a greater cause.