COLUMBUS, Ohio – After her first year of college, Valerie Stearns came to the conclusion that she wanted to do more with her life.
“I realized that I had greater potential,” she says. “That’s when I decided to enlist in the Ohio Army National Guard.”
That was nine years ago.
Now serving as the executive officer of the Ohio Army National Guard’s 1191st Engineer Company, First Lieutenant (1LT) Stearns has deployed to Afghanistan with a military police company, and was one of the first female Soldiers integrated into combat arms roles. She served as the first female platoon leader in the 812th Engineer Company (Sapper) and leads the 1191st Engineer Company’s search and extraction team.
1LT Stearns says that one of the most rewarding aspects of serving in those capacities is having a positive impact on others, which shares something in common with the civilian job she’s had for the past two years – teaching third-graders and pre-kindergarten students.
“My favorite part about being a teacher is making an impact on individual lives every day. I love developing exciting lessons that allow students to reach their full potential and providing creative resources for students to learn.”
Though she loves teaching, 1LT Stearns recently stepped away from the classroom for a full-time slot in the Army National Guard.
1LT Stearns has a competitive spirit, which is what drives her to excel in everything she does.
“It’s important to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself in new ways. It’s how you become better.”
It was that love of competition that led her to compete in the Ohio Army National Guard Combatives Tournament – an annual competition that tests Soldiers’ skills and hand-to-hand combat techniques learned through the Modern Army Combatives Program, a core Soldier competency.
She won last year’s lightweight division championship and is looking forward to defending her title in September.
“Competing in the Combatives Tournament is a way to build camaraderie and helps instill the warrior spirit,” she says.
With her dedicated spirit and heart for developing young minds, 1LT Stearns is stepping out of her comfort zone to grow as a Citizen-Soldier® in the Ohio National Guard.
The Army National Guard gives you the flexibility to serve part-time and close to home so you can serve your State and Nation while you pursue a college degree and a civilian career. The Guard offers education assistance and career training in more than 130 fields including infantry, aviation, intelligence, engineering, and more. Check out our job board for more information on all of these careers, and a contact a recruiter today.
From an original article by Stephanie Beougher, Ohio National Guard, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in May 2019.