Guard gains students despite cutbacks

By Sheryl Cajka

Although the Illinois Army National Guard has received some cutbacks because of the recession, opportunities for students remain strong.

Dan Marchik, Guard specialist from the DeKalb recruiting station, said the number of enlistments has increased only moderately; however, more college students are joining to receive the benefits.

During the past few months, 20 to 30 people have joined the Guard, Marchik said. “The Guard has been averaging about eight to ten members each month,” he added.

The main reason students join is because they are unable to pay for college alone and they turn to the Guard for help.

Although the total funds for the loan repayment program have been cut in half, the Guard still pays back $500 or 15 percent of a student’s loan, whichever is greater, Marchik said. However, the student must already have a guaranteed loan.

Marchik also said the whole Armed Services has suffered a cutback because of the recession.

As a result, the Army had to switch Guard units around to make them smaller, he said.

“I don’t think the Army has been affected that much, but if it (the recession) continues, we could see a significant jump,” he said.

Guardsman and NIU student Jim Powers said the government has been cutting back Guard units throughout the state.

“I don’t know how extensive it is, but it hasn’t affected my unit,” he said.

In addition, Marchik said the enlistment bonus program remains strong.

Because there is a greater need for people with specialized training, the program offers $2,000 to students who enlist in a critical skills area, such as infantry or chemical operations,

he said.

In addition to the one-hundred percent paid tuition to any school in the state, the Guard offers other educational benefits to provide students with the help they need.

As of November 1991, the G.I. Bill has increased its pay from $140 to $170 each month, Marchik said. Guard members also receive drill pay of $100 for every once-a-month weekend they serve.

“They can put the money toward room and board or anything they want,” he said.

In order to receive the Guard’s benefits, the student must be

an undergraduate, enlist for six years and meet certain provisions, he said.

“Although I hate giving up my weekend a month, it’s definitely worth it,” Powers said.