INDIANAPOLIS — They are here to protect and serve you, and they are also your neighbors.
Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Zartman's responsible for recruiting and retaining new National Guard's men and women in the state of Indiana.
He said it's a tough time, as the service members work to take on additional duties during this pandemic.
"They get positive for COVID, just like everybody else, which creates some challenges. But even among that, we are seeing an increase compared to last years,” said Zartman.
That's an increase of at least 8%, compared to the three-year historical average.
WRTV asked, "Why do you think there is an increase?" Zartman said, "I think a lot of it has to do with just the prominent role that the National Guard is playing at the state and federal level.”
We've seen the replays of that national activity, showing the insurrection at the Capitol in Washington D.C., but images also show National Guard members' perseverance. Those men and women who are so dedicated to their roles they sleep in the Capitol hallways.
"And then some of the praises that we're receiving from state and national leaders really help let the community know what the guard is doing on a grand scale," said Zartman.
He said they're assisting in a time of need locally too, which includes helping vaccinate Hoosiers for Coronavirus.
"Since March, you've been able to see the Indiana National Guard used in a whole state response, in all 92 counties, in very different roles. Whether that has been at (COVID) testing sites, food bank location, long term care facilities, etc.,” said Zartman.
And new National Guard recruits, like Carlos Suarez, take notice. "I get happy because I see how we are making a difference to help people that need the help,” said Suarez.
He said he's joining the guard to help pay for college and serve his hometown of Indianapolis. Suarez said, "Because the guard is like stay home, work close to home, and help people all at the same time."
So far, he's made it through Basic Training. "There is like some hard times during basic training. But you just got to focus on the bigger picture on what your goals and keep going,” said Suarez.
And that bigger picture goes beyond the images on a screen and connects deeper than virtual recruitment interviews.
"Fulfillment that comes with serving your local population and the only branch of the military that can do it like this in Indiana, it's really the home team, it's the Indiana National Guard,” said Zartman.
To join the national guard, there are requirements besides being physically and mentally tough.
You must be between 17 and 35 years old, an American citizen or permanent resident, at least a junior in high school or have a high school diploma, GED or certificate. Also, you've got to pass the physical and medical requirements.