Thursday, June 12, 2014

Guardsmen life: Annual training

First thing tomorrow morning, Derek will complete his two week training course with an exam and head home! It's no so much a multiple choice test, but more of a practical exercise that has an allocated time frame of six hours to complete. Pass/fail. Sounds terrible to me, but Derek's feeling pretty confident about it.

I figured now was as good as time as any to explain a bit of the logistics behind Derek's training and responsibilities in the guard.

As a part of his National Guard commitment, Derek spends one weekend a month and two weeks a year minimum fulfilling guard duty. Every year, there is a two-week (at least) training exercise that guardsmen from across the state and division that work collaboratively in an exercise referred to annual training. 

Now, though Derek has been gone for the last two weeks, he hasn't been at annual training. He's been at a training specific to his job position that he took when he got promoted to E-5 last year. Officially, a training course fulfills his obligation for two weeks of active duty. There are years that he has not participated in the annual training exercises when he has completed a training exercise instead. Preparing for active duty not only consists of being trained individually for a role within the unit, but being trained along with the unit and working together too, so there is a balance that exists between them both. There have also been times that Derek has completed training courses along with annual training in a given year (four+ weeks of active duty in a year). 

Derek and the kiddos last year right after his promotion to sergeant!

Factors such as the unit's position in deployment rank, state funding to pay for additional time on active duty, and the nature of the training exercise all factor in the decision to participate in annual training if Derek has already completed a training course. This year, it just happened to work out that his training course this year was at the same time as annual training so he didn't really have a choice to participate in both.

Derek has attended training courses every year he's been enlisted. Part of those courses are an obligation for advancement in rank and some are specific to the job roles that he is a part of within his unit, which is sometimes part of a promotion, but not always. Derek switched positions within his unit upon becoming an E-5 last summer, but he also took a new position this spring at the same rank. While it seems like a lot of moving, it's really beneficial to the unit for Derek to be cross-trained in terms of needing back-ups and having competent soldiers to rely on. It's also good for Derek as the army continues to decrease enlistment numbers as he is a valuable soldier to keep around. 

As for us at home, Derek doing his two-weeks seems to be getting easier as the kids grow older. It's nice that they have obligations, like t-ball and VBS, that bring variety to our days. That really helps! When the kids were younger, it seemed that the hardest part was just making in through each day caring for two small kids on my own. The hardest part now isn't the physical help of caring for kids, but for emotional support I guess I could say. Just the little things like relaxing together at the end of the day, talking about our day, making decisions collaboratively, and all of that mushy I-miss-my-best-friend-stuff.

The kids and I celebrated our wedding anniversary at my favorite pizza place this week. :)

Our families have become great support systems. They have called to check in and do little things like invite us for dinner just to make things a little easier. I spent a few days with my parents and we've seen Derek's parents regularly. I even had a friend bring by a meal, including carrot cake (!) just because she was making extra. We are supported by such great friends and family!

Feel free to ask any question about guardsmen responsibilities and our life as a guardsmen family! Curious as to what Derek's specific duties are in the army? Feel free to ask him. There are parts that he is free to discuss and parts that are classified. Just don't ask me, because I don't even know. It's not that I'm not super supportive! It just doesn't matter to me. I do know that he takes his responsibility seriously, he's good at what he does and that the leadership in his unit respect and appreciate his work. That's enough to make me a proud army wife! :)


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