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NEWS | May 10, 2022

Michigan National Guard Soldier advances through career progression

By U.S. Air Force MSgt. David Eichaker Michigan National Guard

WYOMING, Mich.—Career progression is an important part of military growth and development as a Michigan Army National Guard Soldier found out first hand.

After graduating high school, Warrant Officer Carl Merchant, a wage leader at the Grand Valley Armory, followed his family tradition and enlisted in the U.S. Army as an active duty Soldier. His father and grandfather served a combined 31 years in the Army, molding the mind of Merchant to continue their legacy.

“I always knew I wanted to be a Soldier since I was a little kid,” said Merchant. “My dad was in the Army for 11 years and is a Desert Storm veteran, and my grandfather served 20 years in the Army as well.”

The Army bond between Merchant and his father goes deeper as they both deployed with the same unit, but at different times.

“My dad deployed with the 101st Airborne and I deployed twice to Iraq with the 101st Airborne,” he said.

Merchant left active duty in 2009, but still had a strong desire to serve. The Michigan National Guard appealed to him as he began a new chapter serving at home.

“I did two tours in Iraq while I was active duty and I wanted to come home to Michigan and spend time with my family,” he said. “The National Guard allows me to continue to build on my benefits that I had earned while on active duty and continue to serve while being home, giving me a better family life-balance.”

The Michigan National Guard provides benefits such as assistance with educational costs, health insurance and retirement. Available to all Michigan Army and Air National Guard members is the Michigan National Guard State Tuition Assistance Program (MINGSTAP). This allows members to receive $14,400 for education costs, in addition to the G.I. Bill. Merchant is utilizing these benefits for his future.

“I have used the MINGSTAP, am building up my retirement, and I’m contributing to the Thrift Savings Plan,” he said. “I have a degree in advanced diesel technology and because of the MINGSTAP, I was able to transfer the rest of the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill to my children.”

Merchant was content with his career as an enlisted Soldier for many years. Through mentoring from others, he decided to make a career change.

“I originally intended on staying enlisted throughout my career, but the more I interacted with warrant officers, the more I knew transitioning to the warrant officer corps was the right decision for me,” he said. “Now I am able to move to higher levels of leadership and affect more Soldiers in a positive way.”

Prior to making the change, Merchant wanted to improve his Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test scores. With doing this, he utilized a Michigan Army National Guard program called the General Technical Improvement Course (GTIC).

The GTIC, created by U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 John Laliberte, Michigan Army National Guard, is designed to help service members better their general technical score within the ASVAB test and in turn, provide additional options for career progression and assignments.

"Soldiers have an average increase score of 13 points on the general technical component of the ASVAB," said Laliberte. "The impact is significant as Soldiers who want to join the commissioned officer ranks will now have the opportunity to attend OCS."

After attending the five-day GTIC course, Merchant increased his score by 22 points which paved the path to attend the Warrant Officer Candidate School (WOCS).

“I graduated last week from the WOCS five week program at Fort Rucker, Alabama,” he said. “The best part was my dad pinning me during my warrant officer promotion. He always wanted to be a warrant officer but didn’t have the opportunity, so he wanted to come to my graduation ceremony and celebrate with me.”