Specialist Victoria Anderson and her nephew, Wesley. SPC Anderson has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in her home state of New Mexico.
Army National Guard Specialist (SPC) Victoria Anderson was a sophomore at the University of New Mexico enrolled in a health course when she had her first encounter with the New Mexico Army National Guard.
Her professor, who served in the Guard, had some fellow Soldiers come out to do the Army’s Occupational Physical Assessment Test (OPAT) with her students. The OPAT determines candidates’ level of fitness to qualify for certain Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs).
That experience inspired SPC Anderson to consider joining the Guard. She made the decision just a few weeks after her testing experience. In fact, one of the Soldiers who participated in testing that day ended up becoming her recruiter when she joined the Guard in November 2018.
“Joining was super simple,” says SPC Anderson. “I went to the recruiting office to do my paperwork and started drilling right after. Everyone was super helpful and made sure I was comfortable and could do everything I needed to do.”
She is continuing her studies at the University of New Mexico while serving in the Guard as a 68W Health Care Specialist.
While service in the Guard requires drills just one weekend a month, being a medic means SPC Anderson had to attend many trainings related to her position. Along the way, she says there have always been people there to help her and make sure she is able to manage everything that she needed to complete – including making sure her homework was done before she went to drill.
“People were super supportive and helpful with it,” says SPC Anderson.
She plans to graduate from the University of New Mexico next spring with a degree in health education. Planning for a civilian career in health and training, her MOS and her college education complement each other well.
“I have learned a ton at drill that applies to school, and vice versa,” she says. “What I want to do in life is being helped and assisted by what I do in the Guard.”
She went on to complete her Advanced Individual Training in February, and never imagined that just one week later she would be activated to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. It certainly wasn’t something she had anticipated.
“It was really helpful and interesting,” she says of the experience. “I was immediately able to apply what I had learned.”
For four months over the summer, SPC Anderson was helping with testing and screening at the former Buffalo Thunder Casino, which was turned into a field hospital. There she was able to utilize her skills, experience, and training to do clinical work, including checks on patients, infection control, patient care, and monitoring.
She returned to school in the fall and is utilizing the Guard’s education benefits to pay for college, and she qualified for additional benefits thanks to the length of her active duty service.
“My recruiter helped me to figure out the best way to utilize this benefit,” she says.
Now, after she completes her undergraduate degree, she plans to pursue her master’s degree in public health with a concentration in epidemiology, which will be paid for by the Guard. She hopes to continue her graduate studies at the University of New Mexico so she can stay close to home in Albuquerque – just like she does while serving in the Guard.
“The Guard can help you with everything you want to do in life, and help you do things you couldn’t even imagine.”
The Army National Guard gives you the opportunity to pursue a civilian career while serving part-time in your home State, so your family is always close by. With positions in more than 130 career fields including admin and relations, intelligence, and aviation, you can find your perfect fit. Check out the job board for more information on available careers, and contact a local recruiter to learn more.