INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – There was a time when being in the National Guard was advertised almost like summer camp.
One weekend a month, to get college paid for.
That all changed after 9/11.
And despite its size, Indiana has one of the largest National Guard formations in the country.
“Potential soldiers see us as a winning team and they want to join,” said Adjutant General Courtney Carr.
Adjutant General Carr has been on the job about five months. A West Point grad and former lieutenant and commander, Carr was recruited to the top post in the Indiana National Guard by the man who just vacated the position, General Martin Umbarger.
“It’s an easy sell because it’s a great organization,” Carr said. “It’s a great team. People generally want to join a great team and the benefits are good.”
Carr says as formations go, Indiana is one of the most highly respected. He says the Hoosier state is known for patriotism, so the Indiana Guard is not just attractive to civilians but also to former active military who still want to serve their country.
“I think that’s a testament to the Midwest values; the patriotism that allows us to recruit and sustain a larger force structure than states that are larger than us,” said Carr.
“We just walked in here and as we were standing on the street waiting to cross, someone honked at us and waved and thanked us for our service,” said Staff Sgt. Jamie Ayinde. “You don’t see that everywhere you go, and in Indiana, it’s almost a guarantee.”
Staff Sgt. Ayinde has been in the Guard for 12 years. She and her fellow Guard members know Indiana is a special place to serve. She says she joined initially to pay for college, but it turned into so much more.
“It provides purpose, direction and motivation for people that may not have it, especially in the society we find ourselves in,” said Ayinde. “The opportunities that have been afforded over the last 12 years, I would never have gotten to do some of those things if it hadn’t been for the National Guard.”
Major David Eaton is also a member of the Guard, whose makeup is changing. Those who sign up now know they’re going to be deployed like their active duty counterparts.
“We’re just as trained, we’re just as ready, we’re just as capable and available,” said Eaton.
And even with that consideration, getting into the Indiana National Guard is becoming more competitive.
“Engineers, management consultants, city planners, all kinds of civilian careers, we leverage that skill set when we deploy,” said Carr.
Indiana is the 16th largest state, but it has the fifth largest Army National Guard with 14,000 members. Right now many are deployed. Some are in Kuwait, Guantanamo Bay, Kosovo and Sinai. Their mission is one of service to country, state, their community and their families.
“We came home to just a mass amount of people,” said Ayinde. “My mom works at the airport and she was standing by the gate and ran at me, and I was like, ‘mom, mom,’ but, it’s just overwhelming.”
“I can remember when General Umbarger told me that he was going to have me put in a packet to become a general, which is a long process,” said Carr. “It took more than two years, but the first person I told was my mother. She’s since passed away, but she knew.”