As high-school seniors across the country prepare for life after high school, including advancing to the college or university of their choosing, many graduates are preparing for entry into the United States Armed Services.
In addition to their military training, they will receive specialized training in logistics management, health care, operational organization management, welding and building and over 150 various types of civilian careers.
Often overshadowed by their college-bound peers, military bound graduates are far too often looked at with less than cheerful support – in fact, it’s generally the opposite. Some have discussions to persuade them to rethink their plans while others receive less than equal fanfare given to those who have been accepted to a four-year university.
As Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the U.S. Army, I want parents and family members to know the military has an abundance of programs that lend to the academic development of a student starting with the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, also known as ROTC.
Students can join the program in high school and continue with the leadership training into college having their tuition covered while enrolled in ROTC. Upon their graduation they enter the service as officers and debt free. ROTC spends approximately $300 million in scholarships for students each year to over 1000 universities from Princeton and Harvard to Ohio State and UCLA. The United States Army is the largest single provider of college scholarships in the nation. Most people do not know this.
In addition to leadership and group training, U.S. branches of the military offer specialized training capable of launching a career in a high demand, highly skilled field in the private sector. Most of the military occupational specialties in the Army have related civilian counterparts which gives our soldiers training and experience that others do not have.
As an example, the U.S. Army offers linguistics, IT specialists, engineers, cyber security, legal and law enforcement, transportation, aviation and healthcare (doctors, dentist and nurses) in addition to music training. The discipline aspects of an enlisted member of the services also helps with maintaining focus on studies increasing their grade point averages (GPAs) above those of non-enlisted peers in similar courses.
Most people don’t know that student veterans are also more likely to graduate and have a higher GPA while earning their post-service degrees than their non-veteran counterparts.
Trade skills are also taught including HVAC technician training, truck drivers alongside construction and contractor skills in framing, welding, plumbing, electrical, and landscaping.
Joining the Armed Forces is a noble choice to begin with; something we all can agree that as a voluntary decision commands respect on its own merits to serve our nation. Add to that the ability to obtain skill sets that allow you, as an individual, to leave the service and engage in the job market with the specialized training provided by one of the world’s most elite leadership training organizations – the possibilities are endless.
While less than 3 out of 10 of our graduating high school students are eligible for the Army, the service and skilled training they will receive gives them the elite status that we appreciate so much in our soldiers.
To all the graduates, the future is yours -- make it a positive one for all of us. To all the parents of graduating students, congratulations this is a very special moment indeed. As a parent, I share your excitement. And to those students who have chosen the Armed Forces as their next step in life, thank you for your service and take advantage of all the service has to offer you.
To all may God bless you, care for you and guide you.
Mario A. Guerra is the former mayor of the City of Downey and current Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army. He can be reached at www.marioaguerra.com