A Mission to Serve Missouri
When most Missourians think of the Missouri National Guard, they picture guard members filling sandbags or helping transport affected citizens during the floods of 1993, but the organization’s role has expanded since 9/11. Guard members now continually serve around the world, though the state mission remains key, including responding to emergencies such as the Mississippi River flooding of June 2008 and the January 2009 ice storms across much of southern Missouri. The University of Missouri Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) provides a steady supply of commissioned officers to the Missouri National Guard. From 2010 to 2016, MU’s Army ROTC program has commissioned 30 second lieutenants into the Missouri Army National Guard—an average of more than four lieutenants per year during that period—making Mizzou the third highest source of second lieutenants from ROTC in the state.
Lt. Col. Gary Kerr, the ROTC commander at MU, encourages cadets to carefully consider their options when they sign up. Kerr says cadets are under no obligation to serve in the National Guard once they are commissioned as officers: cadets who choose to serve in the Army will receive an active-duty commission and be discharged from the guard, while those who choose to remain in the guard can choose any guard unit in the country that has an opening. He says there are a variety of reasons some choose the guard over active duty.
National Guard or Active Duty
Cadet Emily Campbell, a senior majoring in graphic design, says the National Guard gives her the freedom to pursue a civilian career rather than being selected for a particular branch of the Army as an active-duty officer.
“I’m interested in joining the National Guard because I really want to get a job in graphic design,” she says. The extra scholarships offered through the Missouri National Guard, combined with the fact her parents and brother all serve in the guard, made it an easy decision for Campbell. Newly commissioned officers serve eight years in the National Guard, drilling once a month and two weeks each year.
Cadet Tariq Mack, on the other hand, plans to go active duty after graduation. Mack, a senior majoring in general studies, went through Army basic training after graduating from high school in South Carolina and says he enjoyed the “everyday atmosphere” of the Army.
“Coming to Mizzou,” Mack says, “has allowed me to interact with people from different walks of life who have different experiences from me and to create bonds that probably will last the rest of our lives.” Mack is inspired to serve by his grandfather, who served in the Army Corps of Engineers.
Kerr says the MU Army ROTC program will commission 28 second lieutenants this year: 12 are going active duty, 14 are going into the National Guard, and two will join the Army Reserve.