National Guard recruiter arrives for duty

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Sgt. Michael Sparks, recruiter for the Arkansas Army National Guard, has located to the Manila, Armorel, Gosnell and Blytheville area.

The new recruiter arrived in Blytheville in May and is getting acquainted with the people.

The Arkansas Army National Guard is a full time career for Sgt. Sparks. He has served in the Guard for five years and this is his first recruiter assignment. Previously, he served two years active duty.

Sgt. Sparks is originally from Palestine, St. Francis County.

He and his wife, Melissa, have two sons, ages five and one. The family will move to Manila and are looking forward to becoming part of the community.

Sgt. Sparks is also looking forward to sharing the benefits the Arkansas Army National Guard has to offer men and women between the ages of 17 and 35.

"It is a great way to have your cake and eat it too," Sparks said. "It is a good way to serve your country and your community. If a community requests, we can give support when needed."

Sparks will be visiting in area high schools leaving resource material explaining to young people how the National Guard can assist with college and career.

To join the Arkansas Army National Guard a person must have a high school diploma or GED. Applicants do have a say in their choice of jobs as long as their test scores are compatible.

Sparks said young people can sign up during their junior year of high school, complete basic training during the summer before starting their senior year and be ready for college benefits as soon as they graduate. Students can receive up to $50,000 with salary, GI Bill and college. It does not depend on any other financial assistance they need.

After completing basic and Advanced Individual Training (AIT), members of the Guard are committed to two weeks a year and one weekend a month.

"In the past we have had members of the military that have served join the National Guard at the same rank of their discharge up to E-5. There is a good retirement, the same as active duty. Serving in the Army National Guard is more than just money benefits, it is a rewarding service," Sparks said. "We do have a Federal Mission and there is always a possibility that the Guard can be called up. Those deployments come with extra benefits. When members of the Guard are deployed, their jobs are protected under federal law. When they return from deployment, they can return to their jobs."

The Arkansas Army National Guard office is located in Blytheville at 1700 South Division. The telephone number is (870) 763-9539. Anyone wanting more information can call or stop by. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sparks said he will be out in the communities often and if he is not in the office he will return all calls as soon as possible.

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