Happy Holidays from On Your Guard

On Your Guard will be taking a break for the holidays. While we’re out, the Army National Guard will celebrate its 380th birthday on Dec. 13. We’d like to wish a happy birthday to this oldest branch of the American Armed Forces and happy holidays to all.

We’ll be back in January with more stories about how you can build a career and help your community and country by serving part-time in the Guard. In the meantime, please check out our job board to see what career opportunities are in demand close to you.

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STEM Careers in the Guard: A Spotlight on Science

This fall, On Your Guard is taking a look at STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, careers offered by the Army National Guard. These are jobs that require problem solving skills and a strong desire to figure out how things work. They are also typically high paying jobs that are in demand in the civilian workforce.

So why is that important? Because Guard service is typically a part-time commitment, many of our Soldiers make the most of their skills training and the Guard’s education benefits to build successful full-time civilian careers.

This week, we’ll take a look at Science careers.

If you’re good at analyzing complex problems and finding ways to solve them, you may be interested in one of the Army National Guard’s science careers. These can range from jobs in medicine to biology, chemistry, physics and environmental science.

First Lieutenant (1LT) Michelle Warner-Hersey, who joined the Guard after college, applied her dual degree in the science-related fields of athletic training and sports management – and a minor in coaching – to become a 74A Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Officer in the Ohio National Guard.

Chemical Units are trained to defend against weapons of mass destruction that could involve chemical, biological, nuclear, or radiological agents.

1LT Warner-Hersey and her team, the 155th Chemical Battalion, are trained on how to use personal protective gear to enter a contaminated area, and how to use detection equipment that allows them to assess and understand the environment, “knowing whether we’re entering an area that is suitable for life or not suitable for life, whether it can be mitigated by our protection equipment, or we need to get back out and get something at a higher level.” 

1LT Michelle Warner-Hersey of the Ohio National Guard

1LT Michelle Warner-Hersey of the Ohio National Guard

The team’s objectives are contamination avoidance, determining what contaminants they might be dealing with, and conducting decontamination to ensure that the team is not bringing anything hazardous outside, thereby expanding the contamination area.

“The mission, in general, is to save lives, mitigate human suffering and prepare for follow on forces.”

So far, 1LT Warner-Hersey has not had to respond to any disasters.

“We learned a lot from 9/11. Luckily all of our information is kind of in the what-if world, because we haven’t had to deal the hazards of mustard gas or Agent Orange and things that used to be used,” she explains. “Even things like 9/11 when there wasn’t a specific hazard, but everyone was affected by the dust, smoke, and asbestos, those are things we could have responded to and maybe will in the future.”

Or, as she and members of her Unit like to say, “We train really hard to hope to never do our job.” 

To be able to do this kind of job, 1LT Warner-Hersey says Soldiers will have to be able to understand how chemicals, radiological material, and biological agents react. This requires an aptitude for science and math. And while 1LT Warner-Hersey always liked science, she says math was not her strong suit.

Her determination solved that problem. 

“I just studied a lot and got a lot of help, mainly because I was so interested in the science part that I didn’t have a choice but to figure out how to learn the math side.” 

A CBRN Soldier will also have to be able to make quick decisions, says 1LT Warner-Hersey. She notes that protective gear can make communication difficult because it can inhibit motor function, and masks can make it more difficult for speech to be understood.

Those obstacles, too, are overcome in training by acclimatizing the body to the protective gear.

“You really have to figure out how to handle yourself in a really stressful, fast-paced environment when you’re limited on how you function normally.”

That includes things like speaking differently to be understood through a mask and using hand and arm signals.

For more on what the equipment and a training exercise look like, check out this video, which features 1LT Warner-Hersey and her former Unit. 

Training in the CBRN field can also translate to civilian careers, especially in working for HAZMAT teams or providing HAZMAT training. 1LT Warner-Hersey says she knows of Soldiers who’ve applied their skills to work in crime labs, lab testing and drug testing on the civilian side.

So if you have the aptitude for, and an interest in, a career in science, be sure to visit our job board to check out these Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs):

74D Chemical Operations Specialist

12Y Geospatial Engineer 

68A Medical Equipment Repairer

92L Petroleum Laboratory Specialist

94H Test, Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment Maintenance Support Specialist

Guard careers in closely related fields, like Engineering, Math, and Technology might also be of interest to you. One way to narrow down your options is to contact your local recruiter.

 

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Guard Spotlight: Women in Combat

N.H. Guard Officer First Woman to Graduate Army Infantry Course

LONDONDERRY, N.H. – Second Lieutenant (2LT) Katrina Simpson of New Hampshire made history in October when she became the first female Guard officer to graduate from the U.S. Army infantry officer basic course at Fort Benning, Ga.

2LT Simpson was one of 10 female lieutenants in a class of 166 to qualify as an infantry officer after completing the intensive, 17-week combat leadership school.

2LT Katrina Fay Simpson receives her artillery shoulder boards from her husband, Mike Simpson, and father, retired Chief Warrant Officer 2 Cornelius James Ware, during a New Hampshire Army National Guard commissioning ceremony in 2015. (Photo by 1st Sgt. Mike Daigle)

2LT Katrina Fay Simpson receives her artillery shoulder boards from her husband, Mike Simpson, and father, retired Chief Warrant Officer 2 Cornelius James Ware, during a New Hampshire Army National Guard commissioning ceremony in 2015. (Photo by 1st Sgt. Mike Daigle)

It was the first class to include female officers since Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced late last year that all military occupations, including combat positions, would be open to women. Assigned as a platoon leader to New Hampshire Army National Guard’s Milford-based mountain infantry company, 2LT Simpson will return to Fort Benning in January 2017 for the pre-selection phase of Ranger School.

At 28, 2LT Simpson is married and has a 4-year-old daughter. She holds a master’s degree, and worked as a clinician with children suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

On the day before her graduation, held Oct. 26, she spoke about the life-altering decision she made three years ago to join the Guard and where she hopes it will lead her.

What made you decide to join the military when you were already well on your way to establishing a career?

My dad is a retired Navy chief warrant officer so I always had wanted to be in the military. I played around with the idea in college. I talked to a lot of different recruiters. Considered going enlisted, considered going the officer route, and then I kind of gave up on the idea. I settled down with my husband, started a family, and finished grad school. I started working as a professional, and then one day I was just kind of thinking I wasn’t satisfied and thinking about what I could do. So I started looking at other options. I don’t remember how I stumbled upon it, but the National Guard page popped up (on the Internet), and there was the recruiter’s information for my area. I shot her an email, and she responded instantly. Two weeks later, I went to get my physical, and two weeks after that, I was at basic training.

You were 25 when you went through basic training?

Yes.

And then back to the New Hampshire Army National Guard and Officer Candidate School.

I was considering branching medical or personnel, but as I went through officer school, I started leaning toward the idea of wanting more out of my training. I wanted more hands-on. I’ve had a few, really great mentors along the way who encouraged me to go combat arms. I was originally going to go field artillery because there was an opening in the State, but then infantry opened up.

How did your husband feel about it?

He wasn’t a huge fan of me joining the military in the first place, but he’s come around. He knows me well enough that once I get an idea in my head, I’m probably not going to let go of it until I’ve given it my best shot. When I told him I wanted to go infantry, he was kind of like, “Yeah, I knew this was coming.” He’s been really supportive. He’s been a single dad for the last five months. He’s just an absolute rock star. He has a high-stress job as well. He’s a probation officer in Nashua so he’s got a lot on his plate right now.

Have your classmates at Fort Benning been supportive?

I haven’t had any issues, honestly. We are broken down into squads. I’m the only female in my squad. We’re the weapons squad so we get to carry a lot of heavy equipment. I’m really close with the guys. We jibe really well. We trust each other. We depend on each other.

I imagine you’ve heard your share of opinions since you’ve been there?

I’ve met Captains down here in the Captain’s career course who have Ranger tabs who will say, “Yeah, but I got my Ranger tab before they lowered the standards to let females through.” You’ll hear comments like that or classes ahead of us, and they’ll say, “We’re the last class before they changed the standards.”

But have they really changed the standards?

No. The standards are still the same.

Do the comments bother you?

It is what it is. I sort of expected it. At the same time, there are still a lot of males who don’t pass the standard.

Was there any part of the infantry course that was especially tough?

The hardest part for me was the academic component. I’m not a good test taker, and I don’t love the way the Army teaches new information: We’re going to give you this class for an hour, then we’re going to give you this study guide, and tomorrow we’re going to take a test on it. That’s always been a struggle for me. I prefer the field exercises. I’ve tried to get used to it over the last three years. Every time I think it will be a little easier. But I do okay. To be fair, I’ve had cadre who are excellent, and then others who are strictly by the PowerPoint.

What’s your advice for other women who want to follow in your footsteps?

You won’t know until you try. The idea does sound scary to a lot of people. What was surprising to me were the comments written about Capt. Kristen Griest (one of the first females to graduate from Ranger School). I had been reading about her for a long time, and the things people said (on social media) about females being in the infantry were horrible. But at the end of the day, these people are sitting behind their computer screens. You know, they’re not actually out in the world. So far I haven’t seen any of those people. Since I’ve got here, I’ve felt supported. I haven’t encountered any of those people and really, they’re not even in the back of my mind anymore.

What’s motivating you?

That’s a question everyone has been asking me. There are a lot of factors, but there are really three, and these aren’t in any particular order of importance. I want my daughter to know that when she is deciding what she wants to do when she grows up that there are no limits, and she can be whatever she wants to be. I feel that’s an important reason when I take a step back and realize what I’m doing here in I-BOLC (Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course) and how important it is to other women who want go down the same path. Reason No. 2 is that I just enjoy a challenge. I like anything that is physically demanding, mentally demanding, tactically and academically demanding. So anything that causes me to go outside of my comfort zone and pushes me to try harder. Lastly, my goal as a professional is to work with combat vets, Soldiers with combat-related PTSD. To me, it’s really important to understand where that PTSD comes from and to have that first-hand experience. That’s the population I want to work with.

So, if you’re motivated to test your limits like 2LT Simpson, the Guard offers training in more than 150 career fields. Check out our job board for details on each career or contact a recruiter for one-on-one assistance.

(From original article LTC Greg Heilshorn, New Hampshire Army National Guard, which appeared in October 2016 in the news section of NationalGuard.mil.)

 

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