Local students get familiar with National Guard Career Fair

Published 5:47 pm Friday, April 17, 2015

Master Sgt. Mark Kalupa, of the 20th Special Forces Unit, talks to students at a National Guard Career Fair held in Clanton on April 15.

Master Sgt. Mark Kalupa, of the 20th Special Forces Unit, talks to students at a National Guard Career Fair held in Clanton on April 15.

The Alabama National Guard held a career fair for high school students in Chilton County on April 15.

The fair, held at Ft. Ivan Smith National Guard Armory in Clanton, gave students a chance to see what kind of training and jobs are available through the Guard.

“This is our first one, so it’s a test run,” said Senior Marketing NCO SFC Ricky L. Matthews. “Our intent of the event as a whole is to educate. Most of your citizens out there may or may not know what we actually do. They see the uniform but can’t distinguish us from an active duty Army solider. So, this is an educational event, and in turn, these high school students that are (graduating) can find out about opportunities and what they (can) do.”

The fair featured four “stations,” with a different specialization in the Guard being featured: staff from the 20th Special Forces Unit, the 31st CBRN (Chemical, Bioloigcal, Radiological and Nuclear) Corps, Medical Detachment and U.S. Army Military Police Corps.

Students visited each station and learned about the specific duties of each unit featured at the station.

Master Sgt. Mark Kalupa, of the 20th Special Forces Unit, said he explained to students the wide range of positions available in his unit.

Kalupa also showed students some of the equipment his unit uses, such as a boat, an all-terrain vehicle and an unmanned aerial vehicle as well as explained the opportunities available through service.

“We’re the recruiting tool: If you want to do some really cool stuff and play with some cool toys, you’re going to spend some time doing it (with us),” he said. “From being in the unit as a truck driver, you can go to Airborne school. You can do it for free in our unit. We give people an opportunity to excel.”

Kalupa said he also stressed the opportunities for employment the Guard provided.

“It’s amazing how many of these seniors don’t have a plan,” he said. “Or they have kind of an idea, but no means to get there. There’s a lot of other great units; you don’t have to join mine—that’s what I try to push. There’s plenty of other opportunities out there. If you don’t have a plan and are about to graduate, join the Guard and get a skill.”

In addition to seeing what the duties and opportunities each unit held, Matthews said students received a “basic training experience” when they first arrived.

“One of our recruiters is out of the Birmingham area, and she came down today because she’s a qualified drill instructor,” he said. “So we had her and another drill sergeant come in, and when we brought the kids in and got them off the bus, we gave them the basic training experience. (We) gave them instruction and got them in formation.”

Robert Girlie, a junior from Maplesville, said he gained an appreciation for the Guard after the fair.

“It was a good learning experience,” he said. “It really gives us an all-around view of the National Guard, what all it offers and how we can get involved.”

Staff Sgt. Trenton Martin, a recruiter and Clanton native, said he felt the event was a success.

“Overall, I think it was pretty positive,” he said. “The kids got pretty hands on. We picked up a lot of interest.”