State Spotlight: South Carolina

Guard Staff Sergeant Saves Lives as a Soldier and a Civilian

SSG Jessica Thibeau, with the South Carolina Army National Guard’s 59th Aviation Troop Command, observes from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during efforts to fight South Carolina wildfires in November 2016. Photo by Army SSG Roberto Di Giovine.

CHARLESTON, S.C. – Soldiers join the military for many reasons, including family tradition, stories they’ve seen in the media, or to make their childhood dreams come true.

For South Carolina Army National Guard Staff Sgt. (SSG) Jessica Thibeau, exposure to the military came from all over – a family filled with combat veterans, a community full of Vietnam veterans, and a television show.

“No laughing, but when I was 4 years old I loved a show called ‘Emergency.’ It was based on the first paramedics in the U.S. out in Los Angeles County, California,” said SSG Thibeau.

“That was in 1974,” she added. “There were not any female firefighters back then. My mom, however, never told me that. She always told me I could be whatever I wanted. I actually got a ton of Tonka fire trucks and ambulances that year for Christmas because that is all I wanted. Becoming a combat medic was just a natural progression.”

After having served on active duty and 20 years as a civilian paramedic, in 2005, SSG Thibeau decided to join the Army National Guard, and offer her combined civilian-military experience in trauma response and emergency/critical care to the Guard, which has a dual mission of serving the Nation and responding to State emergencies like floods and fires.

Initially, SSG Thibeau became a combat medic (68W Healthcare Specialist) with the Maine Army National Guard, 133rd Engineer Battalion. Next, she joined a Medevac unit with Charlie Company, 1st General Support Aviation Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, also in Maine. She later transferred to the South Carolina Army National Guard as a critical care flight paramedic with the 59th Aviation Troop Command.

Throughout her 18 years of military service, SSG Thibeau has saved numerous lives, including two while serving on the South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team. 

SSG Thibeau also flew numerous fire containment missions during the Pinnacle Mountain wildfires in Northwestern South Carolina in November 2016, and she has saved countless lives as a paramedic. As a civilian and a Soldier, she exemplifies positivity in her community and serves with dedication and proficiency in the military.

“I do love walking in on someone’s absolute worst day and making it a little, if not a lot, better,” SSG Thibeau said. “This job gives you a positive outlet to get that adrenaline rush while having a positive impact on others.”

“Whether it is saving their home, their loved one having a heart attack, or bringing another Soldier home from combat to their family, there is no greater feeling in the world to me than knowing you made a difference.”

So if you’d like to make a difference in your community, consider joining the Army National Guard, which offers more than 150 careers. Check out our job board to search opportunities in fields like medicine, administration, or infantry. Your part-time service comes with many benefits like money for college or vocational school and low-cost health and life insurance. Contact your local recruiter to learn more.

From an original story by Army SSG Roberto Di Giovine, 59th Aviation Troop Command, which originally appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in April 2017.

 

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Planning Pays off for Colorado Army Guard’s First Female Infantry Officer

Second Lieutenant (2LT) Wednesday Nelson is big on having a plan.

In fact, her advice for anyone who’s joining the Army National Guard like she did is to plan ahead, because it can be challenging to finish Guard training, line up a civilian job, and be able to take time off from that job for annual training.

So far, her ability to strategize is paying off.

2LT Nelson joined the Guard in 2014, finishing out her junior and senior years at Arizona State University in the Reserve Officers’ Training Program (ROTC), where she drilled with a National Guard unit and ROTC at the same time in the Simultaneous Membership Program. ROTC is a college elective that allows students to earn a commission as a second lieutenant in the National Guard straight out of college.

2LT Nelson had considered joining active duty components of the military, but the criminal justice major also knew she wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement. Joining the Guard, where military service is a part-time commitment, was a way to do both.

“Not only would I get amazing training out of being in the Guard, but also, it would teach me time management, teamwork, and a lot of things I don’t think I could have gotten with just being a college student.”

There was also a financial benefit. 2LT Nelson earned a full-time Guard scholarship that paid for her last two years of college in exchange for her service.

By the time she was getting ready to receive her commission, the restrictions barring women from combat roles had been lifted, and 2LT Nelson commissioned as the first female 11A Infantry Officer in Colorado.

2LT Wednesday Nelson at her commissioning ceremony.

2LT Wednesday Nelson at her commissioning ceremony.

That part hadn’t been planned in advance, but it was lucky timing, she says. As the first woman in her State to serve as an infantry officer, “It was important to me to set a good standard for people to follow. I wanted to do the best that I could, and show that it wasn’t a mistake to have integration in the combat arm branches, infantry and armor.”

She chose infantry because of the challenge.

Of the four others in her class who chose to commission infantry, “all of the guys were studs, they were all pretty much the top of the class, very motivated and very dedicated, and they gave me an idea of what the branch was going to be like. I wanted to be competing with the best.”

Although 2LT Nelson was offered a position as an infantry officer in Arizona, she chose to join the Colorado Army National Guard and relocate there because it’s geographically halfway between where each of her parents lives, plus the Denver Police Department was her No. 1 choice for an employer. After she decided to move, she was accepted to the Denver Police Academy, where she starts next month.

In the meantime, as an infantry officer, her job is to train Soldiers who serve as the main land combat force in the military. She also hopes to be a role model for other women.

Her advice for women going into combat-related jobs, because integration is still new, also goes back to having a plan.

“You have to carry your own weight, plus more. You have to go into this prepared,” she says. “There are people who don’t want you there. There are people who do want you there. But regardless, you have to be consistent. You have to train up for it.”

So if you’re interested in training up to be part of the Army National Guard, one of the decisions you’ll make as you plan your future is what to choose for your Military Occupation Specialty (MOS). The Guard offers more than 150 options in fields like mechanics and maintenance, administration, intelligence, transportation and infantry or another combat specialty.

Explore careers on our job board, and for personalized assistance, contact a recruiter today, who can also explain benefits like tuition assistance and the GI Bill.

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Spotlight on: Vigilant Guard 17 Training

MACON, Ga.– Soldiers from the South Carolina and Georgia Army National Guards came together to turn water samples from a murky lake into clear drinkable water during a training exercise last month.

The annual training event, Vigilant Guard 17, provides National Guard Soldiers an opportunity to create and improve relationships with different military and civilian agencies in case of an emergency. Part of the Guard’s mission is to respond to domestic emergencies like floods, hurricanes, and wildfires.

This year’s simulated scenario, a Category 3 hurricane, was relevant to the area considering the impact Hurricane Matthew had on the Southeastern United States in October 2016.

“We are reacting to a natural disaster that has affected this area, and we are working with the South Carolina National Guard to take water that isn’t clean and make it drinkable,” said SPC Shameka McCaskill, Alpha Co., 218th Brigade Support Battalion.

Training exercises like Vigilant Guard allow Soldiers to remain proficient in water purification. In a real-world situation, 92W Water Treatment Specialists are able to produce 1,500 gallons of potable water from fresh water and 1,200 gallons from salt water in an hour.

For more on what this type of exercise looks like, check out this video featuring Soldiers from the Georgia Army National Guard participating in a 2016 training exercise.

Some of the Soldiers participating in Vigilant Guard 17, including SPC McCaskill, have put their Guard skills to work in real-world situations, like during South Carolina’s historic flooding in 2015.

“We were activated for three weeks and during that time we traveled throughout the State, and brought clean drinking water to different communities,” she says. “What I do is important because we [Guard Soldiers] come fully prepared to provide something that everyone needs to live. Having clean water is critical during a natural disaster. 

Another Soldier able to put her water purification skills to work outside of the exercise is SGT Martika Burnett, Alpha Co., 348th BSB, Georgia National Guard. When not activated or training with her Unit, Burnett is a licensed Class 3 surface water treatment officer. Partnering during Vigilant Guard provides her the opportunity to see how other States operate.

“I take what I learn here, and use it at work, and vice versa,” said SGT Burnett. “I was able to use the skills I gained in the Guard and turn it into a career.”

Because service in the Guard is typically part-time, Soldiers are able to pursue civilian careers that build on their Guard training in one of 150 careers. For specific career information, check out our job board, which can be searched by location, keyword, or job category, such as logistics, engineering or infantry.

The Guard also offers money for college, allowing Soldiers to pursue degrees or vocational school. For more information on how you can join the Army National Guard, contact a recruiter today.

From an original story by SGT Tashera Pravato, 108th Public Affairs Detach, which originally appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in March 2017

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