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Personal experience: what are the benefits to our immigrants of military service in the United States

I serve in the Illinois National Guard, I am a 25A Signal Second Lieutenant. In Illinois, there are more than 20 of us Russian-speaking people, we have our own community and a lot of connections.

Photo: Shutterstock

So, I came to the USA in 2016 when I won the green card. Then I was 30 years old. All my life I worked in the field of IT. Once I decided to change my life, try something new and go to serve. Considering options for AirForce, Army, Navy, Marines take up to 27 years. I read about benifits back in Russia, the main motivator for me was the opportunity to obtain citizenship and learn a language.

When you go to the army / airforce / navy with a green card, most professions are closed to you. Since you are not a citizen and you still cannot be trusted with state secrets, you do not have Security Clearance. Thus, immigrants are generally available to professions such as mechanics, logisticians, infantry, there are a couple of medical, drivers, etc. This is a little offensive, but "it is what it is." I began to study this issue, found people who already serve.

In theory, the profession in the army can be changed, and even several times. The problem is that in Active duty, regardless of the division, you will not be allowed to do this, at least until the end of your contract. The new one can be re-signed for a new profession, the old one cannot, and this is 4 years.

AirForce takes only if the green card is 10 years old. They take into the army, even for two years, and even if it is almost over. This is suitable for those who have had a marriage, and something has not grown together. We had a case when a guy was recorded and sent to the army, when two weeks remained before the expiration of his temporary green card. The guy is already a citizen.

I planned to go to the reserve and somehow accidentally discovered the National Guard. This is better than a reserve, the national guard, at least in our state (it all depends on the state) pays for 4 years of the university, and there are any professions in the guard. And in reserve, for example, only support jobs.

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In the guard, if the soul wants, you can go to special forces. Another point is that in the guard the main part of the contract needs to be served 2 days a month. It works like this: sign a contract, wait 30-120 days until you are sent to basic training, during these 30-120 days you go 1-4 times to the army kindergarten (RSP Program), where you will be taught the basics so that you don’t get too dumb in basic.

You go to Basic for 10 weeks, live in a barracks for 60-70 people, girls - separately, boys - separately. You run with a gun, by the way, for those who are relevant, you can lose weight well during training. After Basic training, you go to your technical school for 7-20 weeks, depending on the profession. You live there as in a university dormitory, rooms for 2-3 people. Exercise, discipline, walk in form. You are taught there really and very well. Any military education is equated to a civil one, in the army you can even become a nurse. And most importantly, you get paid for it. You study, live and get paid.

Graduated from high school - return to your state and serve 2 days a month in a unit no further than 50 miles from home. The schedule is given a year in advance, you can go abroad. The army doesn't care what you do the other 28 days a month at all. The main thing is that on the right day and at the right time you are at the base.

Salary: if you serve 2 days a month as an ordinary, you get about $ 200. Do you know languages? For this, the army is also ready to pay. They pay for Russian, Uzbek, Tajik, Azerbaijani, Chinese ... There is a whole list, however, it is changed every year. Surcharge up to $ 500. If you study at a university, then the guard also pays a scholarship of up to $ 700.

Here is an example of my case: I get $ 1000 for languages, $ 500 for a lieutenant’s salary, and $ 300 for studying. $ 1800 for 2 days. If you serve full time (for example, time at basic, technical school or if you are mobilized by order, then for privates in Illinois it is approximately $ 4000 after taxes, as an officer I have $ 6400 per month).

National Guard pays for studies at any state university or state college. If you sign a contract for 3 years, then 2 years of university, if a contract for 6 years (or 120 credit hours) then 4 years of university, plus they give GI Bill.

Regarding business trips to hot spots: yes, it's an army. Yes it is possible. But there are a number of rules that apply everywhere. When choosing a profession, you need to remember this. If you go to the infantry / artillery - the probability of leaving you increases sharply, on average, infantry units are sent to hot spots every 6-7 years, they have a schedule.

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Send you a logistician, mechanic, doctor - the probability drops sharply. And if you are sent, your job there is not to run around with a machine gun and pinch bearded guys, but to repair cars / helicopters, hand out things at the warehouse.

Do you understand what I mean? Decided to be a cool rambo, the guard will give you this opportunity. Guard is also sent to hot spots much less frequently than Army Reserve or AirForce reserve. This is statistics. If you go to active duty, then for the first 4 years, be prepared to spend 9-20 months in another country. This is also statistics.

The Guard is most often used to solve local problems of the state / country (natural disasters, riots, etc.) and as a reserve in the event of a third world war. During World War II, 65% of the soldiers were guards.

One more point about the guard and the profession. If you have a dream of becoming a lawyer, pilot, IT specialist, etc., then the guard is an option for you. After you become a citizen, you can transfer. This only works in the guard. For example: I was an 88M truck driver (by the way, I got my driver's license at the DMV as a military man, without exams, just providing army documents), and after becoming a citizen, I went to the military academy and became an officer.

You could just change your profession. When you change your profession, you are again sent to a technical school and again paid a full time salary while you study there. The strategy is this: go to the guard, choose a simple profession, get citizenship and then change it.

The smaller the unit, the more difficult it is to change the profession, and the more people want to go. This applies to AirForce or Navy. If you decide to go there, go only with citizenship. The army has more opportunities, and career advancement is faster.

Now about citizenship: military service guarantees accelerated citizenship. USCIS instructs you to serve 180 active duty days or a year of reserve. For understanding - the time in basic training and technical school is equivalent to active duty, that is, if you were in training for 180 days, then you will be signed form N426 there, and you will send documents for citizenship directly from the training.

If you have less than 180 days, then sign up one year after the contract. That is, if, for example, you are a logistician, signed a contract today, waited 120 days to send, 5 months were in training. Total it is already 9 months. Come back, wait another 3 months and send the documents. In fact, much simply depends on command, for example, in Illinois, documents are signed immediately upon return, without bureaucracy.

About the temporary green card: the army, unlike other branches, will take you as you are, including with a temporary green card. According to the rules, you must have it valid at the time of signing the contract for another 6 months. If less, then in theory you can make an extension for another 12-18 months. But here you need your own recruiter, just because no one will worry about you. Even if you divorced your husband / wife, go to the army, the army will make you citizenship.

What else can you get from the army:

  • English will improve. After basic traning, I began to understand even African-Americans from Alabama. Although before that I spoke very poorly and understood even worse. I went to the army with very poor English.
  • Depending on which profession you choose, accumulate about $ 20 thousand during the training.
  • In the army, you can get a profession with the license of an IT specialist, electrician, mechanic, helicopter mechanic, paramedic, construction engineer, you can make a CDL (commercial driver's license) without a school. In total, more than 100 professions.
  • At the end of the training it will be possible to go to the university for 4 years for free, plus they will pay for the courses (I’ll take CISCO CCNA and CompTIA Security + now).

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