JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. – The New Jersey Army National Guard’s Psychological Health Program recently welcomed its fifth team member, although instead of wearing combat boots, he has four paws. Ace is a rescue dog, and at 8 months old, he’s been making waves throughout the State as a therapy animal in training.
Ace can be seen sporting military gear with a large “PET ME” patch emblazoned on the side.
“He’s going to be a tool that we’ll be able to use in order to connect Soldiers and provide emotional and therapeutic support throughout the State,” says Captain (CPT) Melissa Parmenter, a behavioral health officer with the New Jersey Army National Guard.
“Sometimes when we’re struggling with mental illness or just life stressors, it’s hard to get that courage to come forward and ask for some help, so Ace’s role will be to help open that door.”
When CPT Parmenter was pondering what to name the dog, her husband noted that Batman had a dog named Ace. She immediately took to the idea when she realized it fit the Army acronym for Ask, Care, Escort.
“A.C.E. teaches Soldiers at the lowest level, if you have a battle buddy in need, this is how to get them to the right place, and not to leave them alone until they’re in the right hands,” she says.
Ace has already been helping Soldiers, providing comfort to those in need.
“Everybody’s body posture and everything changes automatically when they see him. He’s licking everybody, and everybody is trying to touch him, hug him, and get kisses from him. The whole demeanor of wherever he walks in changes.”
CPT Parmenter hopes that Ace will break down barriers when it comes to mental health.
“I think Ace will help change the thinking that therapy has to be sitting at a desk and talking to someone,” she says.
“I think it will help us get the message across that there are different modalities available, and there are different ways to receive therapy that can be helpful and really beneficial.”
Making an impact is ingrained in the Army National Guard’s mission. If you’re passionate about helping others and making a difference in someone’s life, consider joining the National Guard. With hundreds of positions available in the medical field, including mental health specialists, you, too, can serve part-time in your home State, and take care of those who may need you the most. To see all current job opportunities, visit the job board or contact a recruiter to learn more today.
From an original article by MSG Matt Hecht, New Jersey National Guard, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in October 2019.