JOINT BASE LEWIS-McChord, Wash. - Given the number of time educators spend with young adults, they often serve as the best recruiters for the Washington National Guard.
That's why it's critical they have a complete picture of what a career in the Guard looks like and the benefits that come along with it.
"We want to provide our education professionals with the best information possible about the National Guard," said Maj. Dan Wessman, executive officer, Washington Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion. "They may not know all the opportunities or benefits of our organization."
The Washington Army National Guard recently conducted an Educator Lift, providing high school teachers, principals and school staff the unique opportunity to fly in a Black Hawk or Chinook helicopter. Prior to the flight, they're provided information to share with their students.
"When I thought about the National Guard, I thought about just deployments. I didn't know anything about the state mission or everything that went into their jobs," said Melissa Hayes, director of athletics at Stadium High School in Tacoma. "The Guard has so many more opportunities than I knew."
So far this year, more than 300 educators have participated in the special event.
"Our goal is to reach every school in our state," said Wessman. "If the educators don't know the benefits, the students probably don't either. This is the chance to build relationships across the state."
Participants were provided an overview of educational benefits provided by the Guard and learned about National Guard career paths in the science, technology, engineering, arts and math fields. They also had the opportunity to speak with both full-time and traditional Soldiers who shared their first-hand experiences, including Sarah Schmidt, who is an education services specialist with the National Guard.
"I work with Guardsmen every day regarding their education benefits, I love this job," Schmidt said.