At the Army National Guard headquarters, the strong and telltale brick building located on Market Street in Kingston, the deep shouts of spirited guardsmen echoed through the halls.
Behind his desk juggling phone calls and simultaneously sifting through endless e-mails, lead recruiter and Sergeant First Class Patrick Scarfo sat in full uniform. After a firm and welcoming handshake, Scarfo was more than willing to share the many benefits of joining the Army National Guard.
“You’ll have to excuse them,” said the laid-back Sergeant while chuckling at the hoots and hollers, “there’s a bunch of dudes here and sometimes they like to yell.”
The Army National Guard is one component of the United States Military in which guardsmen serve their country, state, and community on a part-time basis with a unique dual mission consisting of both state and federal roles.
While discussing stigmas young people may carry associated with the Army Nation guard, Scarfo, a member of the Guard since 1984 and recruiter since 1997, clarified some of the misunderstandings about the organization he takes great pride in.
“A common misconception of the National Guard is that we only help the homeland,” he said.
During peacetime, guardsmen answer to leadership throughout the 50 states, three territories, and the District of Columbia, ready to take action during local or statewide emergencies such as natural disasters or civil disturbances.
Even when not federalized, the Army National Guard carries out federal obligations. A pivotal part of the organization’s mission is to, at all times, maintain properly trained and efficient units available at the drop of a hat to mobilize for war, national emergency, or as otherwise needed.
“Another misconception, not only of the National Guard but of the military in general,” Scarfo elaborated, “is the idea that a young person would join the military because they had nothing else.”
The Army National Guard is by no means a last resort; it is a stepping stone for direction and success, but there are no guarantees. After a serious and committed interest has been expressed, a civilian must, through testing, meet certain requirements that prove them to be in both good moral standing and overall health, with no disqualifying conditions, to get so much as a foot in the door.
An Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, more commonly referred to as the ASVAB test, is then administered, setting the standards even higher in determining a civilian’s job qualifications within the Army National Guard.
If the shoe fits, you’ll wear it proud and arrange a ship date for basic combat training. This is the aspect of the military that leaves most shaking in their boots at merely the thought of it.
“You hear horror stories, but that’s just what they are, stories. It is very challenging though,” Scarfo said of the 10-week program. “We’re training soldiers to go to combat. Combat is a stressful situation and we need to make sure they’re mentally and physically tough and capable of being resilient.”
Following the initial 10 weeks, Guardsmen are required to drill one weekend a month and are paid up to $600 to do so. Providing more flexibility than any other service branch, the Army National Guard makes balancing civilian and military life beyond manageable, all while reaping remarkable benefits such as paid college tuition in any state school, full health and retirement benefits, shopping discounts, flying privileges, monetary incentives, and cash bonuses.
However, there are certain perks that money can’t buy. Scarfo stressed the personal benefits and sense of fulfillment that comes along with joining the Army National Guard.
“A sense of loyalty, honor, pride, respect, selfless duty, and personal courage, these are the values instilled in those who enlist,” Scarfo said. “I look back on the people I’ve put in five years ago that have become very successful because of all the National Guard has to offer, and that’s fulfilling to me.”
Responding daily to many potential recruits, the busy Scarfo relates to the many young people who’ve developed an interest in the military from something as simple as playing the popular video game “Call of Duty.”
“I joined in ‘84 because I wanted to be John Rambo. I wanted to jump out of planes, eat snakes, and kick doors down,” he recalled with a laugh “You know, a typical 17-year-old mindset.”