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National Guard engages with the community through open house

The Kentucky Army National Guard, Alpha Company, mingled with community members through a number of informative demonstrations and exercises during a special open house event at the Harlan National Guard Armory on Saturday.

Before their open house began, members of Alpha Company were able to sit down to a hot Christmas dinner donated by members of the community. The group ate with a poster-board hanging on the wall beside them, which displayed the names of those who donated the $2,000 used to support the National Guard.

The Alpha Company had a number of stations set up for educational purposes, including an NVG station for night vision device handling, weapon breakdown stations, communications stations to demonstrate how radio systems are used, claymore demonstration to show how they are set up and employed and a tactical vehicle with an automated CROWS system for viewing. Those in attendance were also able to view what is normally carried in a soldier’s rucksack and loadout.

Harlan County High School JROTC cadets were also able to attend beside their instructor, Maj. Tim McElyea.

“We came out and I brought about 15 cadets with me from Harlan County High School,” McElyea said. “SSGT Sparks and SGT Brewer had contacted me about coming out after their Christmas dinner and going through some stations and I told them absolutely.”

McElyea told the Enterprise his cadets were “seeing a lot of things that I can’t show them” because he does not teach military tactics as part of his class, but his cadets were diving into the information and demonstrations at every station.

“This gives them a little step up from what they’re used to and they’re really enjoying it,” he said, adding he would like for his cadets to continue being involved in events the National Guard hosts. “I would love to. We normally have around 120 cadets in the program every year. I believe these 15 will go back, and if this happens again, I believe there could be 30 or more. They’re all about it.”

McElyea said the demonstrations and displays put together were very beneficial to his students who plan to join a branch of the military when they graduate from high school.

“I think it’s huge because a lot of them want to join the guard or go active duty. Either way, they were able to meet these local soldiers and it really intensified their thoughts on joining the military,” he said.

Members of Alpha Company also participated in an eight-mile ruck march to Christ’s Hands on Sunday to deliver donated items and food.

Soldiers began their march at 8 a.m., marching down U.S. 421 with goods placed in their rucksacks. The company delivered the items to Christ’s Hands before marching back to the armory with a Harlan County Sheriff’s Office vehicle escort.

Kentucky Army National Guard Recruiter SGT Mason McGuire also told the Enterprise the guard is ready to start welcoming new faces. McGuire said recruits could be looking up to a $20,000 sign-on bonus, a consistent paycheck, tuition assistance, GI Bill/Kicker and a part-time job with full-time benefits.

For more information on joining the National Guard, contact McGuire at 606-253-9806 or mason.d.mcguire2.mil@mail.mil.