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Major: Guard is available in emergencies

Whether abroad or at home, the Army National Guard is in the business of protecting.
Members of the Army National Guard and officials from Unicoi County converged at the Erwin National Guard Armory on Friday, Jan. 29, for a showcase of different services the group offers back into the community.
“We’re here to show the community the services available to them and how to be able to request us in case of an emergency,” Maj. Patrick Ellis said. “We’re working with the county emergency management director (Ed Herndon) and the county mayor (Greg Lynch) to show what assets we have. We’re also here to show what we can offer to young adults interested in the military and what type of benefits we have out there.”
Different vehicles and tool systems were on display inside the main hangar of the Armory, including a Forward Repair System (FRS) and Standard Automotive Tool System (SATS). The vehicles, which see live experience on the combat field, can be utilized at home in case of different emergencies, including natural disasters, terrorist attacks or other events that would require assistance of the National Guard.
A member of the Guard works a total of 39 days a year, according to Ellis, and an E6 providing 20 years of services earns an annual income of $8,000. The service also provides cost-effective healthcare plans, compared to others on the market, Ellis added.
“With the TRICARE Reserve Select, a soldier can buy into a plan for cheaper than what’s offered on the market,” he said. “A single soldier plan is $49 a month with a yearly $100 deductible. A family plan is $210 with a deductible of $300 a month. The comparable average of a single person with a healthcare plan through the economy is $209 a month with a yearly deductible of $6,000 and a family plan is near $418 with a $12,000 deductible.”
Soldiers of prior service and new soldiers can enlist with the opportunity of using the post-9/11 GI Bill, Ellis said. The bill, which supplies funds to cover college costs, can even be passed along from a soldier to either a spouse or children to fund educational costs.
And while the advantages are available to soldiers, the Guard also provides economic assistance inside Unicoi County.
“Unicoi County has 19 National Guard members,” Ellis said. “At $8,000 a year for each member, that’s $152,000 a year that’s coming into the county for drilling soldiers. Forty-five soldiers drill here at the Armory and that’s bringing in money for hotels and meals. We’re just trying to get back into the community.”
First Sergeant Michael Sams, a Unicoi County native, leads the operations at the facility. Sams said the Guard will host a similar workshop at the high school in the coming months.
For more information, visit the facility, which is located at 615 South Main Ave. in Erwin.