COVID-19 took a huge toll on the world, diminishing jobs and pushing families and friends away, making day-to-day life harder than we could ever imagine. For Washington Army National Guard officer candidate Jacob Gailey, of Lacey, Wash., it opened a whole new world of doors for him and his family.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Gailey’s wife was working as a pediatric nurse. Due to the pandemic and health care center restrictions, she lost her job due to staffing cutbacks.
“They decided to consolidate down to three full time positions, and they laid off the three junior nurses. My wife with ten years of experience was one of the nurses,” said Gailey.
Along with her source of income, Gailey’s wife lost their family’s health care benefits as well. Gailey, who is an architect, could receive health benefits from his employer, it just came with a price tag that was too much to bear on a single income.
“I went to my employer and asked about insurance for my family as a part of my job and as it turns out they would only give health benefits to me, and when we ran the numbers to buy insurance for my family it was going to be $1700” Gailey said.
Gailey, who had interest in joining the military prior to the pandemic, went down to the local recruiting office in Lacey, Wash., and talked to a recruiter about joining the Washington Army National Guard.
“The military has always been a consideration, just the path my life had taken had never led me to need that,” said Gailey. “I went to school, I got scholarships, I was doing good in school, and I came out with a position as an apprentice architect at an architecture firm. I moved my way up through the ranks from firm to firm and when my wife lost her job, I slid under the door as it was closing and joined almost immediately.”
After talking with the recruiter, he was offered a chance to join as an Officer candidate. Gailey started Washington Army National Guard's Officer Candidate School (OCS) in 2022 and is now in the third and final phase of his training. OSC is made up of three phases consisting of land navigation, leadership training and evaluations on leadership skills.
In advance of starting OCS, Gailey assisted in the previous class, as opposing forces and learning more about what to expect from OCS Phase III, including evaluations and battle rhythms. That is when Gailey noticed a gap in OCS that he could assist with.
“I remember seeing class 65 throwing pinecones for grenades and using two sticks with a piece of MRE cardboard for a claymore mine. All I could think is that this could be more fun than this,” Gailey said. “When I got home, I made a design of a grenade in my CAD software and threw it on the printer.’
When Gailey showed up to OCS Phase III, he passed out about thirty grenades and claymore mines to his company.
“The OSC Phase III staff were blown away!” Gailey said when asked how the staff reacted to his creation. “It was a lot of fun, I actually got to use mine to pass my lane with an E [excellent] on my evaluation.”
Following OCS Phase III, Gailey and his fellow candidates will be commissioned as 2nd Lts. in the Army National Guard.