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NEWS | April 29, 2021

National Guard scholarship helps fuel desire to fly; clears financial obstacles

By Master Sgt. David Eichaker Michigan National Guard Public Affairs

With dreams of becoming a pilot, one Michigan National Guard (MING) Soldier is taking advantage of the National Guard Minuteman Scholarship while attending the Army’s ROTC program at Western Michigan University (WMU).

Born and raised in the Detroit metropolitan area, Army ROTC Cadet Carly Ness has always had a love for flying with aspirations of becoming a pilot.

“My grandfather owns two airplanes and I grew up around them,” she said. “I am completely fascinated by airplanes and it turned into a big passion of mine.”

“To pursue my major in aviation flight science while serving in the National Guard feels like I’m returning to my roots, like everything has come full circle,” said Ness.

Fueling her desire to fly and finding a way to pay for more than $160,000 of educational expenses, Ness continued the family legacy of military service and enlisted in the MING.

Ness’ grandfather and (late) father both served in the Marine Corps. She wanted to enlist right after high school but her mom suggested she attend the ROTC program first. While her dad passed away when she was 13, Ness can sense his pride through the support she has received from the rest of her family.

“My grandfather loves it,” she said. “He is excited about my Army enlistment and I think he is proud to have another family member serve our country.”

According to retired U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Billy Clayton, scholarships enrollment officer for Western Michigan University’s Army ROTC program, about one-third of their cadets are members of the Michigan National Guard.

“We would love to see that number grow,” said Clayton. “The Michigan National Guard provides a lot of great incentives to its members, especially when it comes to tuition assistance. That really takes the pressure off someone trying to get through college.”

The Army ROTC is an elective curriculum that cadets take jointly alongside required college classes. Along with great leadership training, Army ROTC can help pay for college tuition.

“I contacted Mr. Clayton at the ROTC and he told me about the National Guard Minuteman Scholarship,” said Ness. “I was struggling financially with paying for college and he put me in touch with a National Guard recruiter.”

Under Ness’ program, the WMU ROTC FIRST Scholarship will cover 100 percent of her freshman year tuition because she has a three-year National Guard Minuteman Scholarship.

“Both scholarships are paying full tuition — 100 percent of my room and board and 100 percent of my tuition,” said Ness. “As a first-generation college student, I’m thankful to be able to pursue a college degree as I would have struggled to pay for college without these scholarships”

Ness graduated from high school in 2020 and at the age of 19, enlisted in November 2020. However, due to being in college, she will not leave for basic training until May 2021. Along with being a full-time college student, she is a Soldier with the Michigan Army National Guard’s Recruit Sustainment Program, holding the rank of private first class and is based at Fort Custer Training Center in Augusta, performing military duty 12 weekends a year.

After basic training, Ness will be attached to another unit where she can put her training and education to task.

“My hope is to join an aviation unit and fly helicopters, and my commitment to the ROTC shows the Guard I will put forth all the effort to commission into an aviation unit,” she said.

Along with dreams of flying in the Michigan National Guard, Ness has her eyes set on a civilian career in aviation as well.

“With my major, I would love to join the airline industry as an international pilot,” she said. “Another reason I chose the National Guard is that I can have a full-time job while serving my country.”

In addition to scholarships, there are other financial resources for Michigan Army and Air National Guard members. All Michigan National Guard members can be eligible for up to $14,400 in tuition assistance per year through the Michigan National Guard State Tuition Assistance Program, the GI Bill, the GI-Bill Kicker and cash bonus incentives up to $30,000.00 for selected military occupations.

Individuals looking for more information about how serving in the Michigan Army or Air National Guard can offer great opportunities are encouraged to contact recruiters at: Michigan Army National Guard recruiting,, 888-906-1636, the Michigan Army National Guard app, or Michigan Air National Guard recruiting, 1-800-432-4296 or Facebook at