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Springfield students heading to college, preparing to serve

5/23/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

National Guard members are shown practicing a maneuver at the National Guard facility in Green.
Photos: Maria Lindsay
SPRINGFIELD — Six Springfield High School students have made a practical decision regarding college that will also allow them to serve their country and help their community.

Known as the “Springfield Six,” the students signed up to join the Ohio Army National Guard and will leave for training after this school year is completed. The students include: Pfcs. Brittany Champlin and William Myers, who are seniors; Pvt. 2 Russell Powell, a senior; and Pvts. James Seminter, a junior, and seniors Zachary Loraditch and John Morrison.

Six Springfield High School students have joined the Ohio Army National Guard. Shown from left during a weekend training session May 19 are: (back row) William Myers, Russell Powell and James Seminter; and (front row) John Morrison, Brittany Champlin and Zachary Loraditch.
Sgt. 1st Class William Kearns, 1st Platoon, E-Z Company, R&R Battallion, OHARNG, a recruiter for the Ohio National Guard, said the six students joined as a result of one student telling another about the opportunity, and all were concerned about taking on student loan debts, especially in this economy where graduates cannot always easily find jobs.

“There are a million tools to help students down the path to success,” he said. “The Guard is one of them.”

Kearns explained students who join the National Guard can get 100 percent of their college tuition paid for in exchange for working one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer, for which they are paid.

The one weekend a month commitment requirement is spent training at the National Guard facilities off Greensburg Road in Green. That training includes learning about land navigation, first aid, drills and ceremony, squad and fire team tactics, as well as other basic soldiering skills, all of which gives them a leg up when they go to the two-week-long basic training in the summer, according to Kearns.

The students also can draw on the GI Bill to get cash for college, Kearns added. Students also can join after college and get help paying off student loans, he added.

Students are required to commit to the National Guard for a minimum of three years, but most sign on for six years of service in order to complete their education, according to Kearns, and that time commitment starts as soon as the students sign on, unlike the U.S. Army Reserves.

Kearns said the National Guard generally serves in Ohio because their commander in chief is the governor of Ohio, not the president, but it is possible to be deployed out of the state or country. He added the National Guard can be called upon to serve in emergency situations, such as for Hurricane Sandy this past fall, and to do senior checks during extreme weather.

“Our job is not just about fighting wars,” said Kearns. “It’s about helping the community.”

Kearns said students interested in joining the National Guard must be at least 17 to sign on, then graduate from high school, pass a physical test and entrance exam and take a vocational aptitude test. Students also have to “get a job” in the military, which is done with help from Guard officials. He also said he stresses to students they go to college and talk to their parents about their decisions.

“When I first heard about this, I thought it was too good to be true,” said Zachary. “After talking more to officials and my parents, I decided to join.”

Zachary has been assigned as a combat medic, plans to study political science in college and hopes to get into local politics one day.

James, whose brother Sgt. Michael Terry has been in the U.S. Army for 13 years, said he signed on as a junior because he has “always wanted to be in the military.” He has been assigned as an artillery forward observer.

“I want to protect and serve the people of America, and I love the drills,” he said. “Getting my college tuition paid for was a bonus.”

He said he wants to be a welder/engineer and hopes to make the military a career, but he has to have a college degree in order to become an officer.

William said he also wants to join the Army full-time. He wants to train as a welder, and Kearns is encouraging him to attend a vocational/trade school, he said. He has been assigned as a motor transport operator.

Russell and John also are assigned as motor transport operators. Russell wants to study criminal justice and firefighting and believes the similarity in tactics in the National Guard will help build his résumé. John hopes to become a diesel engine mechanic.

Brittany was the first of the group to join — when she was a junior — and completed basic training last summer. She is assigned as a combat medic and plans to attend college to study to become an intervention specialist to help those with disabilities.

Students like Brittany and James, who joined as juniors, can take the basic training in the summer before their final high school year, and after graduating they go to advanced training, putting them a little further ahead.

“These six soldiers have truly become good friends and fellow warriors,” said Kearns. “They will train this summer [at one of four centers across the country] and serve as soldiers right here in Ohio.”

To learn more about the National Guard, contact Kearns at 330-212-7014 or visit www.nationalguard.com.

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