A few years ago, I got the itch to serve my community. There was a flood here, a tornado there, a hurricane on the coast. Through each of those events, I had the urge to just get in the car, drive down there and help. What I learned was that, without some sort of predetermined purpose or context, you’re not going to get very far offering help in such situations.

Captain Clark Howard

About that time, I heard Clark Howard talk about something called the “Georgia State Defense Force.” I considered it for a really long time, even asked my wife if she thought I should join. Years went by. Then, one day I got an email that there was going to be a GSDF recruiter setting up shop at a store not far from where we lived at the time. I decided to go have a conversation.

That was in the fall of 2016. In January of 2017, I found myself among about 25 other people taking the oath of the US Army.

Learning HOW to Serve My Community

Since that time, I have learned more about service than I ever thought was possible. I’ve learned CPR, first aid, traffic control, emergency food distribution, water survival, chainsaw safety, knot tying, repelling, and how to break down, clean, and reassemble a military-issue M4, among many other things.

We’re volunteers. We don’t get paid, and we’re not armed. Aside from that, we wear the uniform of the US Army and we take up the code of honor that goes with wearing that uniform. My current unit is OPFOR Command. We play the role of the OPposing FORce, and we help train up National Guard soldiers so they can have a better chance to come home safe.

Unspoken Benefits of Serving the Community

In addition to learning all the stuff I just mentioned – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg – there’s so much more to serving in the GSDF. One weekend a month, we “drill”. That means we get very repetitive about “D&C” or “Drill & Ceremony”, which is marching and following cadence and commands. We learn new skills and freshen up previously learned skills. We do PT, and we’re currently training up for the ACFT, the Army Combat Fitness Test.

I’m not going to lie here: I’m a little nervous about that day coming up when we’ll do all six of those exercises in less than an hour. But we’ll be ready.

When we’re not at drill weekend, we get the opportunity to serve on “missions”, which means we head out to one military base or another, and train with the National Guard Soldiers. That is by far the most gratifying and exhausting part, but it’s also the most fun. We (OPFOR Command) serve as “the enemy” to our Army Soldiers. It’s our job to make sure they learn the lessons they need to learn before they deploy.

A New Brotherhood

When I joined the GSDF, I didn’t know anyone who had joined previously. But now I have a whole bunch of new brothers and sisters that I serve with every month. We might be sweltering in the July heat handing out MREs and water to those in need. Or we might be loading a helicopter full of supplies to deliver to another military base. Or we might be in the woods in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night in January. I’d trust these people with my life, and we enjoy learning, sweating, and serving together.

If any of this sounds fun, or at least fulfilling, to you, shoot me an email and we’ll talk.  If not, that’s ok, but I’d encourage you to find a way to serve the people of your community.

Everyone has gifts. It’s how you give away those gifts to those who need them that matters.

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