Zach Malinak is a man with a plan.
In fact, he has several plans he is more than willing to share in his job as a recruiting sergeant with the Montana Army National Guard.
A native of Hot Springs, Malinak graduated from Hot Springs High in 2011 and as he puts it, “needed a plan.”
“I wanted to be a chef,” he said. “I saw an opportunity to do that with the Guard and enlisted right after graduation. The Guard had a great culinary opportunity.”
So it was off to basic training, which he said is generally the same as with the regular Army. That was followed by weeks of training in his chosen field, which went well for awhile.
“After training you get to come back home and serve in your local community,” Malinak said, while recently setting up a display and recruiting spot at Plains High School. “Things went well and I learned a lot. But after working a few jobs as a chef I decided I wanted to try something else.”
At that point, he decided to look around and shortly thereafter Malinak committed to the Guard on a full-time basis. Among the jobs he tried and didn’t like in civilian life was a position as a financial advisor with an insurance company.
“I was still looking for a good plan,” he said. “The Guard recruiting opportunity just kind of popped up and I decided the job security and the ability to help others find a good career was something I would like doing.”
After a month-long recruiter training program in Little Rock, Arkansas, Malinak was stationed in Kalispell and embarked on what he hopes will be a career convincing prospects of the many benefits the Guard has to offer.
Along the way, he was, like most Guard units can be, deployed to Afghanistan in 2013. While there he served as a radio operator, a truck driver and a gunner.
Since coming back, he has worked out of Kalispell covering a large area from Kalispell to Plains and Thompson Falls. He points to benefits such as 100% college tuitions waivers and medical coverage as major selling points for Guard duty.
“Usually the prospects I talk to want to know what the Guard can do for them,” Malinak said. “I explain the wide variety of career training options open to them that they might not otherwise get. Some recruits come back and go on to active duty.”
As for Sgt. Malinak, he plans to make service in the Guard a long term deal, which would make him eligible for retirement and the associated benefits at the age of 42.
Until then he will be visiting area schools, talking with prospective recruits and handing out informational materials.
“I want to be able to help out locally and offer those thinking about military service the same opportunities I got,” he said. “In the meantime, I am able to support my wife and kids and have the benefits service offers.”
After he retires from the Guard, Malinak said he would like to become a history teacher or a career counselor. The guard training and experience recruiting as well as the advice he makes available about career paths, would help many others develop a plan for the future, he said.