Guarding Vermont - Interview with Staff Sergeant Melissa Rice

Meet a Vermonter who made the choice to serve her country in the Army National Guard
Where are you from?
I was brought up in the East Montpelier area, and I now live in Barre, Vermont.
How old are you?
28 years old.
What is your rank?
Staff Sergeant.
What type of work do you do in the Vermont Army National Guard?
Right now I work in Administration. I work in the systems office which is a huge database, so all the personnel transactions that happen throughout the state all come up to the state level we process them here, so we are kind of like the final check.
What made you decide to enter the armed forces and when did you make that decision?
I was in my first year of college, and I guess I wanted to do something different at that point, I had been in school for 12 years and I guess I wanted to try something different and I always thought about basic training and I think I wanted the challenge. Then, obviously for the college money, I decided to take a semester off and do this. I ended up working full time here [at the guard] but I go back part time, I haven't completed my degree yet but I've been slowly doing it, and I have almost 60 credits now, about half a bachelors degree and I owe no money.
How would you rank your experience working for the Vermont Army National Guard?
I love it, they obviously have great benefits, I've met a lot of great people, the guard is really like a family I guess on a one to ten, I'd have to give it a 9.
Was it important to you that the Guard allowed you to stay in Vermont?
Definitely, the one nice thing about being in the guard is that you get to travel, but for short periods of time. For example for training I went to South Carolina, I've seen a lot, and have to been a lot of places, but I always know I get to come back here to Vermont.
Do you see the training you are receiving in the Guard helping you in your future career?
That's a tough question for me since this is my full time job, but I definitely feel that with the skills I've gained here I could get a job in the civilian sector. I think one thing a lot of people get from the guard is a sense of responsibility and discipline; I think it made me grow up a lot faster, which was a great thing.
What type of activities do you enjoy in your time off?
Especially in the summer in Vermont I go out boating with my family, fishing, hiking, I'm not much of a skier but I enjoy snowshoeing in the wintertime.
What type of time commitment comes with being in the Vermont Army National Guard?
Generally you have your two weeks of annual training every year and then one weekend a month, and obviously when you start out you have basic training and your MOS school, for your specialty whatever you signed up to do in the Guard, usually they do those back to back, this all usually takes four months of training.
What is your favorite Hot Dog condiment?
Gosh, I'd have to say Sweet Relish!
“When we were deployed in Kuwait, I was doing a Security Force mission, which is security for a camp. Basically, we ran an entry control point for our camp. When vehicles and individuals who weren't American would come into camp, we would have to search them to make sure there weren't any bombs, or any other weapons that they could hurt people in the camp with hidden in their vehicles, or on their person. We basically made sure that the soldiers in the camp were safe.
I think it's important for females to know that the guard isn't just for men and that there are a lot of opportunities for females in the military. I went to basic training with males. Yes, there are certain things that we can't do, but there's so much that we can, and its so much fun. That's the one thing...if you don't take that challenge, then you are really missing out on a great experience and a learning opportunity.
You come in and talk to a recruiter, and you let them know what you want to do. They will try their best to find that job for you, because it's not just about what the Guard wants you to do, it's also about what you want to do in the Guard.”
Top Ten Things You Didn't know about the Army National Guard

The male/female ratio of the current 2576 member VTARNG is 90% male to 10% females

There is 1 VTARNG for every 244 residents of Vermont

An Annual Training period lasting two weeks in the summer is required for all Guard members.

Training assemblies are scheduled a year in advance so Guard members can freely plan the rest of their lives.

There are close to 85 Military Specialties or Occupations available to Vermont Guard members.

Guard members can get up to $20,000 for learning a skill listed as a Military Occupational Specialty.

Promotions can be gained by earning college credits.

Eligible students can earn up to $10,584 for college or vocational school under the Montgomery GI Bill.

The Guard's Delayed Entry Program can help let students who need to finish school attend up to nine months of drills while attending classes before completing Basic Training.

Guard members are currently deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), and the Community Based Health Care Organization (CBHCO).