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Non-Combatant Reservists in Peacetime

Once a month, I get to take a nice trip up to Great Lakes Naval Base in the Waukegan area. In the Naval Reserve, we have what is known as drill weekends, where service members have job training in preparation for mobilization. I’ve learned a lot from drill weekends, and it’s honestly a fun experience that leads to an easy paycheck. Most of all, drill weekends are pretty lax. Saturday’s schedule usually looks something like this:

0545 – Breakfast

0700 – Muster (attendance)

0715-1100 – Job training/paperwork: Service members either sharpen up their skills to be mobilization ready (for example, my training involves IT support and networking) or they catch up on paperwork. This paperwork can range from admin to medical to travel and everything in between.

1100-1200 – Lunch

1200-1530 – Job training/paperwork (again)

1530-1630 – PT (working out)

1630 – Muster and end of day

This schedule repeats on Sunday. After that, I drive back to school.

When I joined the US Navy 3 years ago, I didn’t know that the reserves would be so mundane. I knew that I was signing a reserve contract, and that I would be a civilian 95% of the time, but the experiences I have had are not unlike what a civilian would do if he or she would go to job training every so often. The only modifier is that I wear the cloth of the nation, and I stand in reserve in case of our country’s conflicts. My active duty friends make fun of me all the time, earning me the title of weekend warrior.

I’m also a midshipman in the Illinois Institute of Technology/UIC NROTC unit during the school year, which is part of the larger Chicago consortium. Our consortium also includes Loyola University and Northwestern University. As I pursue my degree, I am also pursuing a commission upon graduation. NROTC has made me so much stronger as a student and as a military member.

The majority of my so-called military service has been in training. I’ve been in the US Navy for 3 years now, and I feel that the military has given me so much while they haven’t asked for much in return. The US Navy has given me so much education and career opportunities that I don’t even know where to start. I would not be the man I am today without the Navy. I honestly feel guilty that I’m a reservist sometimes, taking resources from taxpayers just so I can be fed by the US Government.

The common opinion that most people have of military members is the following: they think of men and women in combatant roles, who are overseas for months or years at a time. While it is true that the majority of service members are abroad, the majority of the military are auxiliary forces to the combatants. It seems that for 1000 men and women to fight, we need 5000 people to back them up be it medical, engineering, logistics, public affairs, etc. As a non-combatant reservist, I embody none of these things. I don’t fight, and I’m not even actively serving. When I talk to people about military service, they are surprised to hear how uninvolved I am as a reservist. It is difficult for me to feel pride when I haven’t done much at all.

Being a reservist makes me anxious. It makes me feel guilty. When I put my uniform on and I am thanked for my service, I think of all the service members who deserve the praise more than I ever should. I think of the fact that I have no business being in the military in the capacity I presently hold.

As a reservist, I feel like I have an obligation to at least explain what military service is like. I hear both sides of the coin from my fellow students. Some students view military service as honorable and an achieving career, while some state that the military breaks people down, or it is for the disadvantaged, or for people who cannot hack it in the civilian world. I would say that many people have these stereotypes on military members. The worst thing is that men and women serving in the military are put on a distant pedestal; respected and pushed away at the same time. We embody this stereotype that military men and women are so different from civilians, but if we step back just a moment, we can see that we are all just normal civilians, too.

Military members are unique in the jobs they do, but not the people that they are. I wish that I can change the common opinion and show that military members can have the same temperament as any civilian, because we are all similar people. While I feel obligated to serve my country more actively in the future, I believe it is important to change how the nation feels about military service. I want to let as many people know that each career in the military is unique, and every individual in the military has their own unique story and role to play that is to the service of our country. When you read my blogs, I hope you enjoy them and see that military service is unique in its own way. However, I hope you also see the similarities in both worlds.

When I drive to drill weekend, I’m happy for all of the opportunities the military has given me. I also feel guilty that I’m serving in such a limited capacity, and I wish I could join my friends overseas, actively serving our nation. I feel guilty that I’m not there with them. I suppose I’ll always feel like that until the day I deploy. But I serve in my own way. My goal is to finish my degree and commission as a Naval Officer, so I can finally go active and serve my country as I see fit.

To those in the reserves with me: you might feel the same way, but you made an oath to the Constitution and yourself. The commitment you made to the nation is commendable already. You should be proud that you are part of our country’s combat team, and I feel that pride of service, too.


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