YAKIMA, Wash. - Joining the Army National Guard is a big decision. Currently the Army offers 190 different jobs or military occupational specialties and making that choice at 18 can be daunting. Two years ago, Tyler Reed of Sumner, Illinois, made that very decision. When the day came, he made a bold choice and chose the United States Infantry.

"We're mounted infantry and get to have fun with big guns," said Reed, now a private first class with D Co., 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment, Illinois Army National Guard. "We have the big guns, we have .50 cals (machine guns), the (MK-19 grenade launchers), the (Improved Target Acquisition System), the 240's (automatic machine guns). Our stuff is loaded on trucks."

It's not all fun and games; an infantry Soldier is always mentally and physically training. It starts with basic training and continues with advanced individual training, for a total of 14 weeks, but that is not where the training ends.

"We have constant small and large field exercises," said Reed. "Some are just a few days while others are much longer."

Today's global challenges call for a more active National Guard than ever. The days of "one weekend a month, two weeks a year" are long gone.

"We have three and four day weekends," said Reed. "Then there are larger exercises that are longer."

Exercises like Rising Thunder in Yakima, Washington, which lasts 23 days and involves a large portion of the Illinois National Guard and foreign allies.

Lasting 23 days and featuring the combined efforts of Japan's 25th Infantry Regiment and the Illinois Guard, Rising Thunder in Yakima, Washington, is one such exercise.

"While I enjoy it," said Reed, "with this deployment coming up, it does get kind of hard because my kid is going to be born while I'm gone."

Reed is deploying to Afghanistan in 2020, a deployment that will take him away from his family for a year. Despite the hardship, Reed tries to stay focused on the positive and uses it as a chance to learn. The experience he gains in his military missions, he translates in aspects of his civilian life.

On his drill weekends, he learns teamwork by working with his squad. On larger exercises, he learns patience and gets the most out of Army classes. At Rising Thunder, these classes include radio procedures, medical transport, and trauma management.

"CLS (Combat Life Saver) taught me things we don't do," said Reed. "Like litter carries. We don't do that all the time. The only time we would do that is when we have an actual casualty. Learning the proper procedures helps me on the civilian side. As a corrections officer, I may have to take someone out on a litter and now I know how to be quick and efficient at that job."

For Reed, being a good infantryman makes him a better citizen and vice versa. His values as a Soldier compound his daily life at home. Such was the case mere days before he reported for Rising Thunder.

"I was on the interstate and I watched a semi-truck drive over a car, throwing the semi-truck in a ditch and spinning the car around the interstate," said Reed. "I pulled over and ran over to the car. The woman driving looked dead. I pulled her out of the car and then her two kids. The kids were in their car seats and they looked okay. I got the kids into a safe place and went to the woman who was unresponsive. I called EMS and the state troopers arrived."

Reed was calm and collected as the officers took down his statement and went over to the driver of the semi who was still in his truck. He expressed surprise that he didn't get any assistance from his fellow commuters, but what troubled him most was that he could not do more.

"I plan to keep training and going over my CLS materials when I'm in Afghanistan," said Reed. "So if the time should ever come, I will be able to do my best to save someone's life until medical personnel show up."