As the area and the nation prepare to celebrate Armed Forces Day on Saturday, it’s an appropriate time to reflect on the variety of roles that those who serve play in our national defense.
The Army has three entities: active duty, Reserves and National Guard.
When active duty and Reserves enlist, they take an oath that is to the federal government only.
Active duty soldiers live on a base and are a full-time force.
The Reserves and the National Guard are a part-time force. The difference between those two forces is the National Guard members take an oath to both the federal government and to the state in which they serve.
“We go to basic training and do job training just like active duty,” said Staff Sgt. and recruiter Christoper Clark of Bedford. “After that is done, we go home.
While they serve both at federal and state level, their primary mission is to the state of Pennsylvania.
In the state, there are about 15,000 members in the National Guard, the third-largest contingent in the nation.
“The governor could say ‘I need help here and there’; wherever,” said Clark. “We have soldiers on COVID-19 missions, when the protests were going on we had soldiers there to provide security.”
Because they also serve on a federal level, they can also go overseas when needed.
“It is the best of both worlds,” said Clark. “I started out because I wanted to go to college; then I got deployed and realized it was much bigger than I thought.”
Since the National Guard is part-time, soldiers can be anything they want including teachers, judges, police officers, correctional officers, professional students and college students.
“They are doing something else in the community, and then one weekend a month they put the uniform on and go train,” said Clark.
When the turnpike shut down a couple of years ago, the National Guard assisted the stranded motorists.
“We brought out cots to Bedford High School and St.Thomas School,” said Clark. “Then we brought food and other things for people coming off the turnpike.”
With COVID, there are also medics with the National Guard serving at testing sites.
“It is their mission and a part of our job,” said Clark. “Whenever they need us, we drop what we are doing to go do it.”
The local recruiting office for the national guard is on the second floor at the Logan Valley Mall in Altoona.
“Just like any other military branch we are recruiters,” said Clark. “If they want to join the military or National Guard, they can come see us and we will walk them through the process.”
They have a wide variety of people who visit the recruiting office and range from age 17-35.
“For anyone that is toying the idea of joining the military, you got both worlds,” said Clark. “When you graduate from high school, you either got to work, school, or live in your parents basement. You can do all that and be in the national guard where you are helping you community at the same time. It’s great, I’ve been doing it for 21 years.”
Lynzie Palmer is an E4 specialist who is also a recruiter and joined the National Guard to help her pay for college.
“I come from a very poor family; I’m actually from Johnstown,” said Palmer.
The only way she would be have been able to afford college would be to apply for a lot of scholarships or join the National Guard.
The National Guard pays all of her tuition and for her apartment at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Then she has enough left over where she does not have to work while in school.
When she classes are not in session, she works at the recruiting office.
“Doing this job pays a lot of money,” said Palmer. “I’m able to save up money to go on vacations and help pay for my apartment next semester.”
Palmer’s unit is in Johnstown, and she is enlisted as a truck driver.
“It is a great opportunity for kids who don’t think they can go to college because they can’t pay for it,” said Palmer.
“There is nothing I can say that is bad about it. If I didn’t join the National Guard, I probably wouldn’t be in college right now. It definitely helped my future.”