Michelle Lard received a ceremonial check for $500 as part of her participation in the Virginia National Guard’s Referral Enlistment Program Aug. 6, 2023, at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Lard, a guidance counselor at Salem High School in Virginia Beach, is the first civilian to receive the incentive.
Lard worked with area recruiter Sgt. 1st Class LaTesse Hall to enlist her son, Pvt. Ashton Lard, into the Virginia Army National Guard as an 88M motor transport operator in the Virginia Beach-based 1173rd Transportation Company, 1030th Transportation Battalion.
Maj. John R. Crocker III, commander of the 1030th, and Maj. Kim Wynn, commander of the Virginia National Guard’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion, were on hand with Hall to congratulate and thank Lard for helping grow the force.
The REP awards Virginia citizens for providing qualified leads to the Virginia National Guard who enlist into the organization and complete their required training, and the incentive is now $1,000.
Lard and Hall developed a relationship because of Hall’s frequent visits to Salem High School and working together to educate students about opportunities in the National Guard. She explained that as a counselor, she focuses on three “E”s for students: employment, enlistment or enroll in a college and said some of students don’t want to go to college, so she encourages them to consider enlisting in the military.
She also credited Hall’s approach working with students that didn’t involve a hard sell, but rather how the military might help them the way it helped her.
After talking with her son about options to pay for college, she thought on her experiences with Hall and suggested, “Get into the military, let them pay for your tuition.”
Lard said her son was still on the fence, and then Hall set up a meeting with two ROTC cadets from Norfolk State.
“When he saw these two African American men who look like him, act like him, he was sold,” she said.
Lard’s sister Tracy Whitehead served previously in the 1173rd and also shared her experiences serving in the National Guard to help with the decision.
She explained that it wasn’t until after her son’s enlistment that she learned about cash payment for the REP. While it is a nice incentive, it isn’t her motivation for her son or her students.
“This is what I do, and I work for those kids,” Lard said.
The REP is open to any adult citizen of Virginia except those who work with a Virginia Army or Air National Guard recruiting element or who share a household with someone who does. Participation in the program requires interested individuals to fill out a few forms and become a Personnel Development Coordinator, or PDC.
PDCs may submit contact information for individuals eligible for and interested in service in the Virginia Army or Air National Guard. PDCs can receive $500 for each eligible lead who successfully enlists into the Virginia Air or Army National Guard. Once that individual completes their training requirements, PDCs will receive an additional $500.
The program has generated 36 enlistments, and a total of 53 people have completed the process to become PDCs. Incentive payments totaling $13,000 have been paid out.
Learn more about the program and how to sign up to be a PDC at https://ngpa.us/26399