An armored security vehicle, an analytical lab system, a humvee, a bridge erection boat and a helicopter lined Fairfield Way Wednesday afternoon as students took pictures and explored the vehicles exteriors as part of National Guard Branch Day.
Advertising their education benefits and tuition payment programs, including Federal Tuition Assistance, State Tuition Assistance, the Montgomery G.I. Bill and the Student Loan Repayment Program, the National Guard recruiters were eager to discuss the benefits of military life.
“Our main goal today is to bring awareness and show what capabilities [the National Guard] has, as well as show (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) students what options they have,” Officer Strength Manager Captain of the National Guard, Ulrick Brice, said. “Patriotic service is really important, and through the National Guard you can live the American Dream while paying for college.”
Branch Day featured the multiplicity of branches of the National Guard and their different purposes.
Branches such as the aviation and medical factions were present, and army vehicles and aircrafts were stationed in various spots near the Student Union. Other branches include corps of engineers, who work to build structures, develop civil works programs and work with natural resources; the military police, offering support in both peacetime and combat; and the logistics branch, which is in charge of forecasting supplies.
Brice explained that the main benefit of joining the National Guard is that tuition reimbursement is offered for the state university of the recruits choice. Recruits also receive a weekly paycheck from the National Guard, Brice said.
Recruitment usually occurs during the ages of 17 and 35 during high school and college, Brice said. Recruits begin by taking the ASVAB. Scoring a 31 or higher allows you to pick which branch you most qualify for. Next, recruits must pass a MEPS exam, similar to a physical. Recruits are then given a shipment date to begin training, Brice said.
Once the recruitment process is complete, recruits spend one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer working. This is the most common scenario for full time students, Brice said, although it is not the only option.
Students have several options when pursuing a career in the National Guard through its multiple brances, Brice said.
Commanding Sergeant Major Hein of the U.S. Army National Guard, “the man in charge,” as one colleague joked, was the head recruiter on campus for Branch Day. The Logistics Branch of the U.S. National Guard was responsible for getting food supplies and helping to restore electricity in hurricane-wrecked Puerto Rico, Hein said.
Information on what type of recruits the National Guard is seeking for each branch and what major is required of a student. Hein said that anyone can sign up for any branch, and the skills you learn in any major or in life can be applied to some aspect of each National Guard branch.
“Any job and every job on the civilian side, you can think of on the military side too,” Hein said.
Joining the human recruiters was their canine counterpart, Balou.
Named after the character from “The Jungle Book,” but with a slightly different spelling, Balou is a U.S. National Guard soldier in her own right. Balou is a nine-year-old Belgian Malinois, which is a herding breed similar in color and look to a German Shepherd.
According to Balou’s handler, who asked to remain anonymous, “all military dogs serve a dual purpose. One is as a search dog for either narcotics or explosives. The other purpose is patrol work, chasing criminals.”
Balou has only been with her current handler for three days, but they already seem to have a good bond, according to the handler.
In addition to animal handling, one of the duties of the National Guard involves operating military equipment.
Staff Sergeant Cafazzo operates what is commonly referred to as “the multi-million dollar vehicle.”
“This is my nine-to-five job,” Cafazzo said. The “multi-million dollar vehicle” is actually an analytical lab system, which is often deployed to conduct on-site analysis of an unknown sample and test potential life-threatening substances.
“This system usually attracts the science kids,” Cafazzo said. “There really is something for everyone in the National Guard.”
The armored security vehicle was an attention grabber, as many students stopped to take pictures and ask about the technology it uses. The vehicle is most commonly used by U.S. Army military police units, as well as in combat support missions, Cafazzo said.
For those looking to go into the medical field, the National Guard also demonstrated their new and improved medical transporter. They showed off the increased space for patients, LED lighting and heating and cooling system.
Land based vehicles weren’t the only ones present, though. The National Guard’s Blackhawk UH-60 helicopter landed in front of Wilbur Cross around 8 a.m. Wednesday and took off around 5 p.m. Students had an opportunity to look inside, ask questions and take pictures.
As the helicopter took off later that afternoon, sending grass flying into the air, students crowded around to watch the awesome machinery ascend, ending another Branch Day at UConn.