you find yourself in a position that turns out to be completely different than
where you thought you would be – it even happens in the Army National Guard.
(SGT) Austin Vogt of the Oklahoma Army National Guard has navigated changes in direction throughout his
service journey, but is focused on his destination – a successful civilian
For the last six
years, he has served as a Food
Service Specialist, primarily responsible for the preparation and service of food in field
or garrison food service operations. Food service specialists must complete 10
weeks of Basic Combat Training and eight weeks of Advanced Individual Training with on-the-job instructions. Part of this time
is spent in the classroom, and part takes place in the field, including
practice in food preparation.
SGT Vogt joined the Army National Guard because he admired
military service. Both of his grandfathers served in the Army. His paternal
grandfather served during war time in Korea and Vietnam. His maternal
grandfather had active duty as well as Army National Guard service – ironically
as a cook. He says he also was impressed by the benefits offered by the Guard,
especially education benefits.
When he first joined the Army National Guard, he was offered
several different positions that didn’t really appeal to his interests – Infantry,
truck driver – and eventually was offered a job as a cook.
“It seemed like an easy job,” SGT Vogt says. “I like to cook,
and I like to eat.”
But his MOS wasn’t exactly what he expected.
“It sounded good at the time, until I got there,” SGT Vogt
says. “It was more work and less sleep than I thought.”
Due to under-staffing, there were days when he found himself working
from 1 a.m. to 11 p.m., including cleanup, running all shifts – except lunch,
which was in the field. There were nights when he slept for just 45 minutes.
Eventually, he realized that being a cook probably wasn’t the
best position for him. He was looking toward the future and wanted to set
himself up for a successful civilian career with higher pay.
Instead of the kitchen, he set his sights on an IT career. “I
thought if I had IT training, I could work my way up and eventually work as a
contractor,” SGT Vogt says. Now he is
about to transition to a career in communications as a Signal Support Systems Specialist.
Through the Army Relearning Certification Class, he is
earning coins that act as a credit. “Courses are very expensive,” SGT Vogt
explains. “These classes will help me when going after jobs and will open more
doors for me.” He also plans to take advantage of the GI Bill for college
SGT Vogt has been working toward his new goal in his civilian
life as well. After spending the last two years in environmental and
construction work, he recently took a job in life insurance sales.
“My goal right now is to absorb as much information as I can,
to learn about the field and get hands-on experience.”
He sees his civilian career in sales as a segue.
“In the job market, you have to be able to sell yourself. I
am learning a whole new vocabulary – and words to avoid,” SGT Vogt says. “I
definitely think I am heading in the right direction.”
With career opportunities in more than 130 positions, the
Army National Guard can help you find your perfect fit. Check
out the job
board for more information on available careers,
a local recruiter to learn more.
Private First Class (PFC) Elahni Ocean
is a woman on a mission – to utilize every opportunity she earns serving in the
Army National Guard to further
herself and her family.
Her unusual first name, which, coincidentally,
is “inhale” spelled backwards, seems to reflect her outlook toward her service
in the New York
Army National Guard – to take everything in.
In her civilian life, PFC Ocean is a busy
mom and social worker who is dedicated to helping homeless families. She has
been living and working in Brooklyn since 2016 and joined the Army National Guard
in July 2019.
“Service is definitely part of me. I
like being part of that 1 percent – part of the community that is smaller but
Military service runs in her family: PFC
Ocean entered the Army National Guard at age 28 – the same age her mother was
when she joined the Guard. Her father served in the Marines, her sister is in
the Army, and many other extended family members also serve.
“My mother served in the Army National
Guard, but she wasn’t afforded
the same amount of information on the benefits she would have been able to
receive, so she didn’t explore all her options,” says PFC Ocean, “But I plan to
explore every single option for myself and my family and I am determined
to do it right.”
By “doing it right,” PFC Ocean explains,
she plans to take advantage of every opportunity her service in the Army
National Guard provides – education,
even help with starting her own business.
Her civilian career as a social worker provided experience to help her succeed in her Army National Guard position in Human Resources.
“We ensure that the Soldier and their
family are well maintained,” she explains. “We make sure the Soldier’s story is
complete in life and on paper.” That includes ensuring their emergency
information is up to date, their insurance is in order, their awards and
promotions are on track, and checking qualifications for various
PFC Ocean says she didn’t realize just
how much her civilian career and military career were alike until she finished
her training in the Army National Guard. Both require paying close
attention to detail and a serious amount of discipline.
“As a woman working in both fields,
these are really important,” she explains. “In civilian life, the standard you
set forth is the standard your family will follow. In the Army National Guard,
the standard you set forth is the standard they respect you at.”
In her civilian work with the homeless,
there are sometimes six or more people in the family, and she must make certain
she follows through to ensure every family member’s needs are met. The same
holds true when working with Soldiers’ families.
“There are set rules that you need to
abide by,” she explains. “If you don’t, serious things can happen.”
Both involve a tremendous amount of
customer service. “I have to make sure their needs are met to get them to their
After completion of Advanced
Individual Training, PFC Ocean earned the Army
Achievement Medal, and the Distinguished Leadership Award. She also received a
Certificate of Achievement for her outstanding performance as the Student First
Sergeant during her training, which led her to being meritoriously promoted to
the rank of Private First Class.
She also completed Weapons Qualification
Training, which she says, in times of frustration, actually was a great stress
“It allows you to get to know your body
because you have to move as one to hit your target, and you have to learn to
control your body and breathing,” she says.
PFC Ocean has not been deployed yet but
says the thoughts of it are both a blessing and a curse. While she would
welcome the opportunity to travel, she is dedicated to serving in her community
at home – she knows it inside and out and is confident in her ability to keep her
community safe and well. “No one can do it any better.”
Her service in the Army National Guard
has helped her to grow. “Personally, I think it makes me stronger as a woman
and as a mom.”
Moving forward, her goals are to earn
the rank of Lieutenant, to travel with the Army National Guard, and leverage
every available opportunity for her family’s benefit. She already has done
college-level studies, but wants to move forward studying business psychology,
and eventually start her own business. She plans to pursue the Helmets to Hardhats
program, which helps aspiring entrepreneurs to establish and open their own
business. She also wants to contribute her experience to programs that provide
help to homeless veterans.
“I like the support I receive in the
Army National Guard,” she explains. “You feel that you are part of a community.
I know that if I ever fall, I will be completely supported because I made the
sacrifice for my country.”
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio Army National Guard’s support during the
COVID-19 pandemic has presented many firsts for the organization.
It marks the first time
since the Blizzard of 1978 that the Army National Guard has responded to serve
the State on such a large scale. The Guard’s overall COVID-19 response, known
as Operation Steady Resolve, is the first time Ohio’s Army Guard, Air Guard,
Naval Militia, and Military Reserve have been activated under one joint task
Among the hundreds of
Soldiers, Airmen, and other personnel who have answered the call to serve on
the front lines of the COVID-19 response is one who had already achieved an
historic first of her own for the organization. Second Lieutenant (2LT) Colleen
O’Callaghan is the first woman in the Ohio National Guard’s 232-year history to
become an Army Infantry Officer.
With the integration of
women into combat arms still in its infancy – the Department of Defense began
allowing them to serve in direct combat Units more than five years ago – 2LT O’Callaghan
took a leap of faith to start her journey toward becoming an Infantry Officer.
Graduating the Army’s
Infantry Basic Officer Leaders Course (IBOLC) was an accomplishment 2LT O’Callaghan
says she never envisioned when she began her career in the Ohio Army National
Guard. Along with help from her recruitment team, she navigated the obstacles
to pave the way for herself and other women to join the Infantry branch.
“I really wanted to take
on a big challenge,” 2LT O’Callaghan says. “So, I walked into the Army National
Guard recruiting office and told them I want to be an Infantry Officer. I saw
it as an opportunity to reinvent myself and serve my country.”
2LT O’Callaghan earned
her blue cord – a military decoration worn over the right shoulder on an Army
dress uniform by all Infantry-qualified Soldiers – in October after a
successful 12 weeks of IBOLC training at Fort Benning, Georgia. The
installation is home to the Maneuver Center of Excellence, which also trains
armor and cavalry Soldiers, as well as oversees specialty training, including
the U.S. Army Ranger and Airborne schools.
After completing Officer Candidate School with a near equal
number of men and women, 2LT O’Callaghan was one of only three women in her
IBOLC class. Despite being the first woman in the Ohio National Guard to branch
into infantry, 2LT O’Callaghan says her experience was the same as any other
Soldier’s. She found her peers and cadre supportive of her decision, actively
encouraging her throughout the course and treating her professionally.
“The cadre and staff
there were really excited and were really understanding of the position I was
in. It can be awkward being one of the only females,” says 2LT O’Callaghan.
“But I ended up making some great friends and definitely had some memorable
Colonel (COL) Matthew
Woodruff, commander of the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, attended
O’Callaghan’s IBOLC graduation ceremony and met with her family and course
“This (was) an historic
event for the Ohio Army National Guard to have the first female Infantry Officer
complete IBOLC,” COL Woodruff says. “It means a lot for the 1-148th (1st
Battalion, 148th Infantry Regiment), the 37th IBCT (the major subordinate
command over the 1-148th), and the Ohio Army National Guard in paving the way
for future female Soldiers, NCOs (noncommissioned officers), and officers to be
in combat arms in Ohio.”
2LT O’Callaghan, of
Xenia, Ohio, attended her first drill weekend in January as a platoon leader
with the Ohio Army National Guard’s Company C, 1-148th, in Tiffin. Shortly thereafter, the coronavirus outbreak hit Ohio,
forcing many businesses to close. It also meant a civilian job opportunity for 2LT
O’Callaghan was put on hold. So, when the Ohio National Guard created a joint
task force in response to Gov. Mike DeWine’s call for the Guard to provide
support during the COVID-19 pandemic, it only made sense to 2LT O’Callaghan
that she answer the call to volunteer.
“I had just accepted a
role at a new job, but they could not start me until after the (governor’s)
stay-at-home order was lifted,” 2LT O’Callaghan says. “So, I volunteered to be
put on orders and help the State until I could start my new civilian role.”
2LT O’Callaghan was able
to serve close to her Southwest Ohio
home, at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Clark, Champaign, and Logan
Counties in Springfield. As officer-in-charge of the approximately 40 military
personnel staffing the food bank, she led a joint team responsible for a
variety of mission sets, including drive-thru food distribution and home
deliveries across Second Harvest’s rural, tri-county coverage area.
2LT O’Callaghan says her
experience as a new Officer was enhanced by support from her senior NCOs. While
Infantry Officers don’t typically train to run food bank operations, she was
able to use her administrative expertise from previous civilian jobs while
capitalizing on the variety of skills her team members had to offer. Together,
they were able to efficiently operate at the food bank and serve fellow Ohioans
The public’s response in
Springfield has been overwhelmingly positive.
“There were a lot of
people who were just very grateful there was help available,” she says. “I
would stand toward the front of drive-thru distributions to greet people as
they arrived; they were always very positive and thankful we were there to help
them when they needed it most.”
2LT O’Callaghan says she
felt gratified to serve her friends and neighbors in such a direct way. The Army
National Guard is unique in that it allows Soldiers like 2LT O’Callaghan to
serve in their communities, which has helped her make the place she calls home
“We genuinely want to be
here. We have all volunteered and we are all serving relatively close to our
homes whenever possible,” she says. “Everybody wants to help because there are
so many people (who are) out of work and need assistance, and we have the
ability to do it.”
2LT O’Callaghan says she
wants her service as both a female Infantry Officer and a member of the Ohio Army
National Guard during Operation Steady Resolve to inspire others to start their
own journey and, ultimately, pursue opportunities to serve their Community, State,
“I didn’t get here on my
own, and at no point was I alone,” she says. “What I hope to do is encourage
other women to take on something extremely challenging and take the leap.”