Debate: The ARNG Career E-4 Specialist

Today, I want to offer a debate about a subject that is near and dear to my heart.  That subject is the Career Specialist in the Army National Guard.  Visit any National Guard unit and you will find several Specialists who have been in the military for 10 to 20 years.  Some of these Soldiers are good Soldiers and some aren’t.

The point of this article is to debate the question “should there be such thing as a Career Specialist in the Army National Guard?”  My immediate answer to that is HECK NO.  Let me begin by telling you that there is no such thing as Career Specialist in the Active Duty Army.  Soldiers have certain time frames to make certain ranks or they are separated from the Army.  Not so, in the ARNG.

Let’s begin the debate by talking about the pros and cons of having Career Specialists in a unit (as I see it):


  • Soldier has lots of experience
  • Soldier has probably been with unit a long period of time
  • Soldier might be real good at doing their job


  • Soldier has proven time and time again they cannot get promoted
  • Soldier does not want a leadership position
  • Soldier has more than likely failed APFT or HT/WT on several occasions
  • Soldier is holding up slot for new Soldiers to be assigned

As I see it, there’s no such thing as neutral in a military career.  You are either advancing your career or going backwards.  While I do believe that some “Career Specialists” might be good soldiers, I think they also prove that they don’t have it cut out for NCO leadership positions (for whatever reason).

Therefore, I believe the ARNG should adopt a similar program to the Active Duty and have certain time frames for getting promoted.  People who fail to meet the standard should be separated.

What are your thoughts?  If possible, leave a comment below to answer any of the following questions or share your thoughts.

  1. What is your experience with Career Specialists in the ARNG?
  2. How do you feel about the current ARNG Policy with Career Specialists?
  3. What do you think the ARNG should do about it?

I look forward to hearing from you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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9 thoughts on “Debate: The ARNG Career E-4 Specialist”

  1. I don’t know about elsewhere, but I can share with you that in the Wyoming National Guard, there are soldiers who don’t advance because of the “good old boy” system. In other words, if you aren’t part of the clique, you are SOL. Having said that, I see your point, Chuck, that the norm needs to be moving on and moving up. Personally, I can’t see not progressing over the years; however, I can appreciate the fact that there are those who are awesome at what they do, and simply enjoy it. I can see the value in that, as well, for having someone who knows the unit inside and out, as well as all of the finer workings, is worth its weight in gold. I would have to agree with Candace overall, that it depends on the unit and the individual situation. If they are just milking it, however, because they don’t want to put forth the effort necessary for promotion, I would provide some very clear incentive to light a fire under him.

    1. Thanks for the comment. To be honest, the Active Duty has a standard that prevents this from happening, but I’m not sure why the ARNG hasn’t adopted similar policies. If you aren’t trying to advance your career, so be it, but you’re holding up someone else who is trying to advance theirs. Move up or move out. That would be my policy if I was in charge.

  2. Career SPC/E-4s NO ! But Career Corporals, were a part of the army in 1800s and 1900s. They were drivers, clerks, hospital corpsmen, mechanics. They liked what they did and did not want to progress. Yes, good idea, if the E4 cannot be boarded by Company and Battalion and become a corporal, then get rid of them. But, bring back the career corporals….

  3. I will agree with Candace on this one… we have a few “Career Specialists” but in the Guard, guys stick around a lot longer. Active Duty there is so much you’re going here, and you’re going there that it is easy to say, “look if you don’t make a certain rank in a certain timeframe…you’re done.” Now with that, I do agree with you, Chuck that there are some guys who milk it and are turds that need to be flushed. However, “Pappy” as we affectionately call him, is an E-5 that has “socks with more time in grade than you do.” Without Pappy, things do not happen. He is THE head guy and runs the Infantry Company headquarters section. He works harder than any other 20 year in the unit. I would take 1 Pappy before I asked for 5 new guys… Another example from my experience was a guy who was previously a CPT. Made rank very quickly, then when he got out, came back to the unit as an E-5 and worked as our Readiness NCO for the longest time. Yes, rank is important, but the Guard is a different beast and “career Specialist” are both good and bad, I think that should just be left up to the Commander to decide… I’m sure our CO would never replace Pappy…LOL, Pappy would just tell him to get lost!

  4. I’m in the Illinois National Guard and when I was in an Infantry Battalion, we had one career Specialist that was a commo guy. Frankly, the guy was terrible. He did the bare minimum and did just enough to where no one could actually put him out. Thankfully, he wasn’t anything higher than an E-4 and to this day I cannot figure out how this soldier was an asset in any way to the military.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Moses. I’ve personally met some competent Career E-4s and some that weren’t. But in either case, I didn’t like the idea of someone being in that long and never progressing through the ranks.

  5. Candace Ginestar

    I think it depends on the unit, Chuck. On the line, YES I agree with you 100%!!!
    However, looking at what I experienced in my first unit, those career SPC/SGTs make the unit run. In aviation units, particularly medevac, the way the platoons are structured are a little different. There’s 1 SSG slot for a medic and they are the PSG (FSMT NCO). There’s a whole lot of SGTs and however many junior enlisted fill in the blanks. The 1SG billet is for a medic also. The platoon leaders are CPT and the APL is a LT, the CO is a MAJ.

    Anyway, what I am saying is that there are specific reasons why some people don’t advance. Those SGTs that are crew chiefs might decide to stay that rank because they enjoy flying and want to do that job forever. Same for the medics, and the operations personnel. I don’t see any problem with that since the career progression is very different. Some of them will move up and on, if there is the opportunity, and that is great. But some will choose to stay where they are.

    I don’t know if it should work that way for every unit, and I am inclined to say that on the line that is a bad idea.

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