Pvt. Raymond Loree has become the first Army National Guard soldier to graduate directly into the active Army’s ranks through a new program called “Active First,” in which recruits commit to service in the active-duty Army followed by service in the National Guard.
Loree, who enlisted Oct. 18, graduated from one-station unit training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., this past February.
Active First recruits enlist in the Army National Guard and attend monthly drills until their initial entry training is complete. Following IET, soldiers can serve up to 48 months of active duty, with the option to continue an active-duty career or return to their Guard unit.
Bonuses of up to $60,000 are available through the program. Loree, who enlisted for 48 months, is scheduled to receive $40,000. Married with two young children, he said the money will help his family.
The National Guard hopes to enlist 1,600 Active First recruits by the Sept. 30 end of the current fiscal year; as of February 20, 984 soldiers had been recruited, Sgt. 1st Class David Hawkins, Active First lead project manager, said.
Loree is following a longstanding family tradition by serving in the military. A sister serves in the Army in Afghanistan, and a cousin is in Kuwait. At least six other immediate family members, including both parents, are either retired from the armed forces or currently serving. His father spent more than 18 years in the Marines. His mother wore Air Force blue.
“It’s my time to serve my country,” Loree said by telephone from Fort Leonard Wood, where he was trained as a combat engineer. “Growing up as a kid, I looked up to my dad. I always wanted to serve our country. I get to keep the tradition going.”
He said he told his family, “You guys did it for me, now I’m doing it for you guys.”
The 22-year-old tried civilian life first, working as a salesman. “I went to work dreading it every morning,” he said.
That changed during the rigors of basic combat training.
“I feel motivated,” Loree said. “It’s very motivating knowing that I can get up in the morning serving my country.”
Staff Sgt. Shane Carvella was one of Loree’s drill sergeants. “He listens,” Carvella said. “He understands. He asked a lot of questions. He tries to prove himself a little more because of the weight that he has on his shoulders.”
That’s the weight of tradition and the weight of leading the way in Active First.