National Guard May 2012 : Page 48

LAST WORD Not About the Money By retired Capt. George E. Anderson III W decision to stay or leave the National Guard?” the No. 1 re-sponse, mentioned by 40.2 percent, was unit atmosphere/ administration. The next most popular response, which HEN I CAME off active duty and joined the Na-was education support, was half of that at 20.1 percent. tional Guard 30 years ago, I was told by my first Overall, 75.2 percent of respondents said they liked “a sergeant that a major difference between the regu-great deal” or “very much” being members of their particu-lar Army and the Guard was that the Guard was “family.” lar unit. Members of the Guard took care of each other, helping For individuals who re-enlist, the emotional bonds are each other both inside and outside the Guard, he said. The much stronger than the economic pull. Guard is held together by those close personal bonds. Interestingly, their decisions had little to do with con-A study sponsored by Pennsylvania Army Guard dur-flicts with their families or civilian jobs. What did matter ing 2010 and 2011 has shown the wisdom of that first was how the Guard deals with those conflicts. sergeant. Individuals who enlist today expect that sometime It took a close look at the effect of a high operational during their initial enlistment, they will be called to active tempo on re-enlistment rates by addressing three specific duty, creating a clash with family, school or work. questions: They expect the Guard to help them when those situa-Z What specific factors differ between soldiers who leave tions arise. and those who stay at the end of their enlistment? Guard soldiers often spend their entire military careers Z Are employment opportunities outside the Guard per-in a single unit developing close personal ties to the unit ceived differently between those who leave and those members. They remain in the Guard because they develop who stay? a sense of belonging. Z What effect does deployment have on The Guard That attachment comes with the ex-re-enlistment? pectation that the unit will support them The study asked the question about a is family and through their personal challenges. When soldier’s re-enlistment decision from two if we forget that, they perceive a lack of support, they are points of view: Z Do soldiers participate in the Guard as a then the number more likely to leave at the first opportunity. On my second activation after 9/11, I part-time job or is there something more of soldiers who was sent to serve with an active-component to it? Z Do soldiers stay in the Guard for the leave will go up Army unit. Although everyone was posi-tive and professional, it was clear they were money or for some other reason? dramatically. not as socially connected as a Guard unit’s Money would seem to be the easy members. answer. For generations, Guard recruiters A boss once told me, “In the Army you meet a lot of have touted an enlistment as a “part-time job with full-time people, but you make very few friends.” pride,” appealing to an individual’s financial self-interest. The Guard has become more professional as it has But there were obvious problems with such thinking, transformed into an operational force. In an attempt to especially after 9/11. A part-time job normally doesn’t in-clude the potential for activations, deployments or combat. model themselves closer to the active component, some If joining the Guard was a financial decision, then there units have forgotten that it isn’t the money but the personal relationships that hold the Guard together. should be a strong relationship between outside economic We now have scientific proof that my first sergeant was opportunities and leaving the Guard. If an individual can right. The Guard is family and if we forget that, then the earn the same money working part-time elsewhere, why number of soldiers who leave will go up dramatically. would he or she assume the risks of being in the Guard? Mission first, always. As job opportunities increased outside the Guard, reten-But caring for your people comes in a close second. tion should decrease. Studies supported that prior to 9/11. However, it didn’t hold up in the Pennsylvania study. The author spent 21 years in uniform in a two-part military In the post-9/11 world, soldiers make their decisions to career that began in 1972. He retired in 2006. Most of his stay in or leave the Guard based upon factors other than service was in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard’s 28th money. Infantry Division. He holds a doctorate. in organization and When asked, “What was the primary reason for your management from Capella University. 48 | Na tional Guard

Last Word

Retired Capt. George E. Anderson

Not About the Money<br /> <br /> WHEN I CAME off active duty and joined the National Guard 30 years ago, I was told by my first sergeant that a major difference between the regular Army and the Guard was that the Guard was “family.” <br /> <br /> Members of the Guard took care of each other, helping each other both inside and outside the Guard, he said. The Guard is held together by those close personal bonds.<br /> <br /> A study sponsored by Pennsylvania Army Guard during 2010 and 2011 has shown the wisdom of that first sergeant.<br /> <br /> It took a close look at the effect of a high operational tempo on re-enlistment rates by addressing three specific questions: <br /> What specific factors differ between soldiers who leave and those who stay at the end of their enlistment?<br /> <br /> Are employment opportunities outside the Guard perceived differently between those who leave and those who stay?<br /> <br /> What effect does deployment have on re-enlistment?<br /> <br /> The study asked the question about a soldier’s re-enlistment decision from two points of view: <br /> <br /> Do soldiers participate in the Guard as a part-time job or is there something more to it?<br /> <br /> Do soldiers stay in the Guard for the money or for some other reason?<br /> <br /> Money would seem to be the easy answer. For generations, Guard recruiters have touted an enlistment as a “part-time job with full-time pride,” appealing to an individual’s financial self-interest.<br /> <br /> But there were obvious problems with such thinking, especially after 9/11. A part-time job normally doesn’t include the potential for activations, deployments or combat.<br /> <br /> If joining the Guard was a financial decision, then there should be a strong relationship between outside economic opportunities and leaving the Guard. If an individual can earn the same money working part-time elsewhere, why would he or she assume the risks of being in the Guard?<br /> <br /> As job opportunities increased outside the Guard, retention should decrease.<br /> <br /> Studies supported that prior to 9/11. However, it didn’t hold up in the Pennsylvania study.<br /> <br /> In the post-9/11 world, soldiers make their decisions to stay in or leave the Guard based upon factors other than money.<br /> <br /> When asked, “What was the primary reason for your decision to stay or leave the National Guard?” the No. 1 response, mentioned by 40.2 percent, was unit atmosphere/ administration. The next most popular response, which was education support, was half of that at 20.1 percent.<br /> <br /> Overall, 75.2 percent of respondents said they liked “a great deal” or “very much” being members of their particular unit.<br /> <br /> For individuals who re-enlist, the emotional bonds are much stronger than the economic pull.<br /> <br /> Interestingly, their decisions had little to do with conflicts with their families or civilian jobs. What did matter was how the Guard deals with those conflicts.<br /> <br /> Individuals who enlist today expect that sometime during their initial enlistment, they will be called to active duty, creating a clash with family, school or work.<br /> <br /> They expect the Guard to help them when those situations arise.<br /> <br /> Guard soldiers often spend their entire military careers in a single unit developing close personal ties to the unit members. They remain in the Guard because they develop a sense of belonging.<br /> <br /> That attachment comes with the expectation that the unit will support them through their personal challenges. When they perceive a lack of support, they are more likely to leave at the first opportunity.<br /> <br /> On my second activation after 9/11, I was sent to serve with an active-component Army unit. Although everyone was positive and professional, it was clear they were not as socially connected as a Guard unit’s members.<br /> <br /> A boss once told me, “In the Army you meet a lot of people, but you make very few friends.” <br /> <br /> The Guard has become more professional as it has transformed into an operational force. In an attempt to model themselves closer to the active component, some units have forgotten that it isn’t the money but the personal relationships that hold the Guard together.<br /> <br /> We now have scientific proof that my first sergeant was right. The Guard is family and if we forget that, then the number of soldiers who leave will go up dramatically.<br /> <br /> Mission first, always.<br /> <br /> But caring for your people comes in a close second.<br /> <br /> The author spent 21 years in uniform in a two-part military career that began in 1972. He retired in 2006. Most of his service was in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard’s 28th Infantry Division. He holds a doctorate. In organization and management from Capella University

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